Thurston Middle School teachers Carl Nelson (left) and Ina Inouye "Wu" each earned an advanced credential from the National Board Certification of Teachers last November. Nelson and Wu, who teach social science and science, respectively, were two of six instructors from Orange County and among 346 statewide to earn the honor. (Laguna Beach Unified School District / January 14, 2014)

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Laguna Beach Unified School District administrators and board trustees honored two Thurston Middle School teachers Jan. 14 for achieving advanced credentials.

Social studies teacher Carl Nelson and science instructor Ina Inouye Wu each earned certificates in November from the National Board Certification of Teachers. The credential is not required.

Nelson and Wu were among six Orange County teachers chosen for the distinction last year and the first from Laguna Beach Unified since art instructor Linda Erickson earned the honor in 2003, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards website said.

Statewide, 346 teachers earned the honor in 2014.

Nelson was hired at Thurston eight years ago. He always has a big smile, board member Theresa O'Hare said.

He also has a fun-loving attitude, Thurston Principal Jenny Salberg said.

"He is up for any dress-up day," she said. "Carl is inspirational to each sixth-grade student who passes through his class. He's made Thurston a better place each day he's been here."

Wu has taught at Thurston for four years and embraces her job with passion, Salberg said.

"On any given day, I see her intensity with the eighth-grade students and how they're learning," she said of Wu, who also helps out where needed. "Whether it's coordinating a book study or making sure SMART cards are on a pad [ready to hand out to students who exhibit exemplary character traits], she has always taught with the four C's [critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity] as the backbone of her classroom."

The four C's are the traits of Common Core, new state testing standards that all California public schools must use beginning this fall.

A national board certificate attests that a teacher was judged by his or her peers as one who is accomplished, makes sound professional judgments about students, and acts effectively on those judgments, according to the California Department of Education website.

The certificate is a joint project of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Assn.

Applicants must complete a rigorous two-part assessment that takes a year. Candidates must submit a portfolio including two videos to document the teaching style.

Candidates must also make an appointment at a testing center where they will respond to six prompts focused on content knowledge. They are allowed up to 30 minutes to respond to each prompt.