ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Nine public school teachers in Albemarle County are now certified in a new teaching method that aims to reduce the achievement gap between students of different backgrounds and ethnicities.

The school division hosted its third annual Cultural Diversity Conference at Monticello High School on Saturday, June 2.

Educators in Albemarle County are re-thinking the way they teach and interact with students.

"It’s a really reflective internal journey that calls you to really look deep inside and think about what are your assumptions and biases," says Ben Allen, the assistant principal at Kale Elementary School.

Allen spent the last year earning his certification in Albemarle County's culturally responsive teaching program, which is the first of its kind in Virginia.

"Every single student that comes into our building has a culture and deserves to be recognized for it and to have opportunities for them to embrace their culture and to share it with their peers," says Allen.

The idea behind the program is to use cultural awareness to tailor instruction to the individualized strengths and needs of each student.

"One of the biggest challenges that we have as educators is addressing the achievement of all students," says Bernard Hairston, the executive director of the Office of Community Engagement with Albemarle Public Schools.

Hairston wrote the certification program and believes teachers need to educate themselves about micro-aggressions toward African-American males.

“Sometimes we push out micro-aggressions that causes a reaction for students to shut down rather than be motivated, and oftentimes those are just common-day statements that we make that we don't realize they are intentional and are unintended statements that cause reactions," says Hairston.

Hairston adds that there are still things the school division can do to work toward meeting the needs of all students, but this program is a good start. Students seem to think so, too.

"The school district is taking this seriously, which makes me feel better as a person and more comfortable as a black male in Albemarle County, so I really do appreciate this,” says Marquan Jones, a junior at Albemarle High School.

The nine teachers and administrators who earned the certification were celebrated at the end of Saturday’s conference.

This brings the total number of educators who have completed the program up to 17 over the past three years.