Motorcycle dream drives Mecham

WAIMEA — David Mecham from Waimea High School is the most recent Kaua‘i teacher to receive certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

The state Reinventing Education Act of 2004 (Act 51) established a “Teacher National Board Certification Incentive Program.” The program provides a $5,000 bonus per year, $1,500 upon completion, and a reimbursement of the remainder of the application fee, which is currently $2,300. Prior to Act 51, the bonus or “differential” was a negotiated item in the teacher contract. There may be more monetary incentives. Governor Linda Lingle has proposed an award of $10,000 per year to a national board-certified teacher for teaching for three years in an underperforming school.

Mecham was inspired to apply for certification by the desire to own a Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle, he laughingly admitted. He called the certification process an “eye-opening” experience that helped him to reflect on what he is doing, and asked himself, “Should I be doing something else that I am not doing?”

The big benefit of going through the process, Mecham said, is self-evaluation. He discovered that he needs to improve. He said he always thought class discussion was his strongest point, because “that’s how I do most of my teaching.” He received his lowest grade in that area.

Mecham said he needs to allow more time for his students to think, and to increase participation.

Mecham took five months to develop his 50-to-60-page portfolio of written responses and supporting documentation and videotapes for four different projects. He said he could have had a year, but he registered late. The first project involved developing and assessing math thinking skills.

He had to develop a lesson plan, implement the plan, evaluate the products to see how well students comprehended the lesson, plan follow-up lessons if students did not comprehend — “the formative, assessment kind of thing,” he said.

The second project involved videotaping a whole-class math discussion. The videotape had to be accompanied by the lesson plan and student products.

The third project was small-group math collaboration. The fourth project involved documenting how he enhances student learning by involving the community.

For this project, Mecham had to have others verify that he did, indeed, coach soccer, advise the Leo Club, and inform parents of student progress.

Mecham also traveled to O‘ahu to take a three-hour written examination to demonstrate that he understood mathematical concepts and could explain them to students. All high-school math topics were included in the exam, from algebra to calculus.

Cynthia Matsuoka, a Lihu‘e-based freelance writer, is the former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi, and writes periodically on education issues exclusively for The Garden Island. Messages for her may be left with Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, at 245-3681, ext. 224, or pcurtis@kauaipubco.com.

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