More than 25 teachers from the West Feliciana Parish and Zachary school districts convened April 18 to learn about the new National Geographic Educator Certification Program.

Presenters Nicole Means, a social studies teacher at West Feliciana High School, and Breigh Rhodes, a second-grade math and science teacher at Rollins Place Elementary in Zachary, are the first two teachers in Louisiana to obtain the certification because of their previous work with the National Geographic network.

In 2014, Rhodes was one of six teachers nationwide chosen to serve on the Geo-Educator Steering Committee for National Geographic, while Means was one of 35 educators from the U.S. and Canada selected to participate in the 2015 Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship program.

The pair was chosen along with 23 educators from the U.S. to participate in the “Train the Trainers” event at the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., in August. At the event, they presented to state geographic alliance leaders, including Louisiana’s Robert Rohli; introduced participants to the certification program; and trained participants on how to conduct Phase I of an introductory workshop that all interested educators must complete to begin the certification process. Teachers who go through the program share ideas about how to teach students about the world and learn about National Geographic’s new learning framework, which covers the attitudes, skills and knowledge that teaches youth about the world and how it works, empowering them to succeed and make it a better place, Rhodes explained.

After months of tweaking the training model, National Geographic has since launched the educator certification training module, and teachers in the Zachary-West Feliciana cohort will become the first in Louisiana to participate and earn the certification.

The local teachers completed Phase I of the process during the April training event and will complete phases two and three by June. During the second phase, teachers must implement two lessons, activities or tools from National Geographic’s educators website and reflect on the activities and overall impact on student learning, Means said.

“The final component of the certification process entails a capstone project and two-minute video or presentation that showcases students’ increase in knowledge, skills and attitudes outlined in the framework,” Means said.

Rhodes opened the April training session with a quote by Leonardo da Vinci, which stimulated a conversation among the teachers followed by sharing their own personal missions for educating their students.

“A perk of my career is that I get to learn with my students,” Northwestern Elementary teacher Molly LeRoi said.

Throughout the Phase 1 training, Means said the teachers realized the National Geographic’s framework can be incorporated into all academic disciplines, rather than only social studies.

“It models what teaching and learning should always be like,” Zachary teacher Phyllis Manuel said.

West Feliciana Middle School teacher Ali McMillan said she liked collaborating with the other educators.