(SPRINGFIELD, Ky.) Traci Blanford, a family and consumer science teacher at Washington County High School, Miranda Yonts, an English/Language Arts and science teacher at North Washington Elementary School and Rhoda Whitaker, a math teacher at North Washington Middle School, have earned National Board Certification, according to an announcement from Dr. J. Robin Cochran, Superintendent. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was installed in 1987 as the teaching occupation’s means for defining and recognizing accomplished teaching.

Blanford is a 2005 graduate of South Oldham High School. She earned a Bachelor of Science in family and consumer sciences education in 2009 from Eastern Kentucky University, and a Master of Arts in Education in reading writing specialist in 2013 from the University of the Cumberlands. She has been teaching for 11 years, all in Washington County.

WCHS teacher Traci Blanford

Traci Blanford

Blanford says she had to conduct an immense amount of research for the certification on her students, standards and her teaching practices, and prepared a portfolio of them, along with evidence of growth and examples of feedback she gives to students and parents. She says she wanted to earn the certification in order to challenge herself to be the best teacher she could be. “I love being able to build a rapport with my students and watch them grow into young men and women over the years,” she said. “I also love the ‘aha’ moments students have when they can connect what they are learning in class to real life situations.”

“This is an achievement that speaks to Mrs. Blanford’s abilities in the classroom,” says WCHS principal Malissa Hutchins. “In order to reach National Board Certification status, a teacher must exemplify excellence in all aspects of teaching in their content area. Traci has the ability to reach all students as they obtain valuable life skills through our family and consumer science courses. She sets high expectations of all students and has a tremendous wealth of knowledge in her field. We are extremely proud of her and this accomplishment!”

Yonts is a 2003 graduate of Anderson County High School. She received a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Campbellsville University in 2007, and a Master of Arts in educational leadership from the University of the Cumberlands in 2010. She has been teaching for 12 years, all in Washington County. “I love the interaction with my students and being able to watch them grow as a person and as a student,” she says.

NWES teacher Miranda Yonts

Miranda Yonts

While Yonts said she wanted the earn the certification as an opportunity for a rank change and to challenge herself to complete this goal which she had set for herself early on in her career, she admits that the journey to earn the certification was challenging, given the work it involved, but says she learned so much about her teaching practices and about herself. “This process forced me out of the comfort of my own classroom walls to seek out new practices and collaborate with others in unfamiliar ways,” she says. “The work also really pushed me to be very reflective of every decision I make in the classroom, thus changing the way I deliver instruction and interact with my students. I am very thankful for a district of teachers and administrators that support the work in a variety of ways.”

“Ms. Yonts excels in the ability to craft highly engaging lessons and tasks,” says Amanda Mattingly, principal at NWES/NWMS. “She works extremely hard to keep all students moving forward, is constantly pushing herself to grow through her own research and professional learning and maintains a highly efficient and safe classroom for her students. Ms. Yonts shines in the classroom and her commitment to the teaching profession is to be commended.”

Whitaker is a 1992 graduate of Tazewell High School in Tazewell, Virginia. She received a Bachelor of Science in counseling from Johnson Bible College (now Johnson University) in 1996. She also earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Eastern Kentucky University in elementary education in 2008. She has also been teaching for 11 years, all in Washington County.

NWMS teacher Rhoda Whitaker

Rhoda Whitaker

“My favorite part of teaching is making a lasting impact on my students,” says Whitaker. “The importance of building relationships with each of them drives me every day in my classroom. This helps to build relationships that foster a level of respect among each other, which allows a great deal of learning to take place. I work each day to get my students excited about learning. I love to be as creative as I can in the classroom to make learning interesting for my students.”

Whitaker, who described the process of earning National Board Certification as rigorous, says she pursued it to make herself a better teacher. “I truly believe we can all learn something new, on a daily basis, and I knew this process would do just that for me. There are always new ways of teaching and new strategies that can be used in the classroom and this process helped me to learn those. I also wanted to do this for my students. I want to be the best teacher I can be for them in order to help them be successful.”

“Mrs. Whitaker’s ability to connect and build relationships with students fosters a truly special classroom that is full of learning, laughter and confidence,” says Mattingly.  “She is constantly monitoring learning at the individual student level and knows exactly how to pinpoint where they are struggling so she can fill in the gaps in their learning. She is a model for a true growth mindset. Her students know that through hard work and a positive attitude, they will succeed in her classroom.

Mattingly continues, “I am very proud of both Ms. Yonts and Mrs. Whitaker. Their accomplishment of becoming a national board certified teacher is well-deserved, and it brings such joy to see them continue to excel in their profession. I am honored to have them on our teaching team at North Washington.”

“We are so proud of the work Traci, Miranda and Rhoda have accomplished,” says Cherry Boyles, chief academic officer for the Washington County School District. “There is no higher achievement in the field of education than to become nationally board certified. It is the most rigorous professional learning that a teacher will experience. Beyond their individual growth and accomplishment, these teachers are leaders of professional learning for their peers. They recognize the importance of developing the team and are striving to support improvement in professional practice throughout our district. As a National Board Professional Learning district, Washington County Schools is committed to improving professional practice through the use of national board core propositions and resources. We support NBCT candidates through component fees, professional time, and NBCT mentorship. Since 2016, Washington County has more than quadrupled the number of National Board Certified teachers in our district.”

Superintendent Cochran acknowledged that the district was ecstatic about the news. “All three of them are model teachers that believe in continued professional learning to better their practices and in turn positively impact student achievement. We are so excited that our students are able to experience top notch instruction on a day to day level. The amount of time and level of commitment each of these ladies has shown is to be commended and is an excellent example of Commanding Excellence for All!”