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Educator has energy to spare

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PARK CITY — You might find Shelley Pierce teaching in Ecker Hill Middle School's lunchroom.

Or its halls.

And, of course, a classroom or two.

"She's flexible and able to meet with kids anytime, anywhere, any place, and they need that," principal Greg Proffit said of Pierce, a special education teacher at the Park City school. "She has a lot of energy."

Energy, indeed.

After teaching all day, serving as the Park City Education Association's building representative and working on the school's building leadership team, Pierce spent whatever time she had left last year researching and reflecting on herself as a teacher.

Her reward: the prestigious "master teacher" certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She is the first teacher in the district to achieve the credential.

"It really made me look at teaching kids in a whole new way," said Pierce, who has taught eight years in Park City and the San Francisco Bay Area. "This was more work than my master's degree."

Certifying with the national board is arduous. Teachers spend at least one year reflecting on their own practices, videotaping themselves at work, putting together a portfolio and other requirements. Then they participate in four 90-minute testing sessions.

Pierce, who teaches students with learning and multiple disabilities, took the exams in June. But she couldn't find out until November if she'd passed.

"It was a really long wait," she says.

Pierce, who received undergraduate and graduate degrees in special education from the University of Utah, sought national board certification to inch up the teachers' salary scale and help pay off student loans.

But Utah doesn't extend bonuses to its master teachers, now totaling 14. The state only recently began helping teachers pay the $2,300 certification fee.

Doors have opened to Pierce nonetheless. She was asked to teach a class at Westminster College. And she's spending time working with potential national board certification candidates.

"She is devoted to the profession and loves her work," Proffit said. "She really pours her heart into it."

E-MAIL: jtcook@desnews.com