Mark Gardner, NBCT

Mark Gardner is a National Board Certified High School English Teacher living and working in a transition suburban-rural school district in southwest Washington state. After teaching full time in the classroom for ten years, and three years in a hybrid teaching/teacher-leadership role, he transitioned into a full-time role designing and launching his district’s K-12 New Teacher Induction and Mentorship program. In the 2016-17 school year, he will also be serving as the president of his local teachers’ association. Mark writes for the group blog Stories from School ( which is sponsored by Washington state’s Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP). Mark works within his own district to develop sustainable teacher leadership pathways and professional development. Follow Mark on twitter: @mdwyg.    
Creating the Conditions for Accomplished Teaching to Grow
Mark Gardner, NBCTMarch 9, 2018

I grew up on a farm in the high desert of central Oregon. My family mainly grew alfalfa hay, but also crops from bluegrass seed to wheat to peppermint oil, (which I cared for as my FFA project). The success of our crops depended tremendously on our ability to create the best possible conditions for our crops to grow. We monitored the weather and adjusted irrigation schedules to compensate for drought or wind. We monitored the soil for parasites, and would spend long dusty days “picking rock” to ensure the ground was free of stones that would inhibit root growth.…

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Move. Listen. Breathe.
Mark Gardner, NBCTOctober 12, 2017

On the side of my notebook where I attempt to keep my whole world organized, I have written three reminders: Move. Breathe. Listen. MOVE My 9th graders were at their computers hammering away at their literary analysis essay of bildungsroman in To Kill a Mockingbird when I started to notice that the thunder of fingers on the keyboards was giving way to side chatting, fidgeting, and the kind of grabby behavior that used to result in me calling out, “freshman boys, stop touching each other!” Instead, I said this: “Finish your sentence. Stand, stretch, and touch four textures, then return…

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See the System
Mark Gardner, NBCTJanuary 25, 2017

Of the National Board’s Five Core Propositions, teachers being part of learning communities was long the toughest for me as an NBCT teacher-leader to connect with, largely because of my schema around what “learning community” should mean. For a dozen years, we have been a DuFour Professional Learning Community (PLC) District. We’ve carved out time for teams to meet, but in those dozen years of “implementation,” the systems as constructed were producing what one of my colleagues accurately described as “Professional Compliance Communities.” For years, our PLC system felt like hoops we teachers were obligated to leap in order to…

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Let’s Rethink Collaboration: Outputs versus Outcomes
Mark Gardner, NBCTAugust 31, 2016

I’m an introvert, a lone wolf, and never gravitated toward team sports. When I drive to work, go on my morning run, or attack weeds in the garden, my brain is its most productive. I like to be a creative problem-solver, dig into research, and test out new strategies to examine their potential. I understand those sayings about “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Erroneously attributed as an old African proverb, this saying has become the mantra of pro-collaboration folks. Countering the “to go far, go together” meme…on the other…

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To Transform Schools, Slow Down
Mark Gardner, NBCTJuly 22, 2016

I’m a bit of a teacher-nerd in that one of my favorite parts of the job is lesson planning. I’m a notorious wheel-re-creator, as it is a captivating puzzle for me to build together just the right sequence of experiences to help my learners move from point-A to point-B. I don’t necessarily script out activities or transitions down to the minute, but the execution of the lesson is a purposeful performance on my part. I design each lesson not only with a clear intention of the learning I want my students to develop, but also the experience I want them…

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Passive to Active, Philosophy to Action, Novice to NBCT
Mark Gardner, NBCTMay 25, 2016

For many years, I’ve worked both formally and informally with teachers pursuing National Board Certification. I coach them on their written commentaries, probing their thinking to bring to the surface key details that establish clear, consistent and convincing connections between their practice and their impact on student learning. Now, in my current role as a mentor for new teachers in my district, I’m starting to see how the thinking I encourage in candidates is exactly the kind of thinking I want to ensure my first-year-teachers develop as regular practice, from the very start of their career. Before I talk about…

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The Architecture of Accomplished Teaching…of Teachers
Mark Gardner, NBCTApril 22, 2016

Earning my National Board Certification was a professional turning point for me, as it was for many teachers I know. It was early in my career when I submitted my Blue Box (with VHS tapes!), but as soon as I connected with the community of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) here in Washington state, hallways filled with doors of opportunity opened to me. As I’ve navigated through these new doors, my role has shifted from teacher of teenagers to teacher of fellow teachers and administrators. Stepping into this uncharted territory, I found that the skill set I brought as an…

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Shifting Culture: Power and Value
Mark Gardner, NBCTSeptember 2, 2015

Editor’s Note: Mark Gardner, NBCT, is a high school English teacher in southwest Washington state working in a hybrid role that also allows him to work on professional development experiences for teachers.The views expressed in this blog are his own. In July, David B. Cohen shared his reflections about “Shifting the Culture” and how National Board Certification can be part of leveraging a shift. Considering my own experience, the mechanisms of a district’s culture shifts can be a bit mysterious, but I believe they are rooted in who leads, who learns, and who we pay attention to. Who Leads Last…

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My Struggle with Classroom Data
Mark Gardner, NBCTJuly 8, 2015

Editor’s Note:  Mark Gardner, NBCT, is a high school English teacher in southwest Washington state working in a hybrid role that also allows him to work on professional development experiences for teachers. The views expressed in this blog are his own. I am not afraid of numbers. Yes, I teach high school English, but was raised by a math teacher, found calculus comfortably challenging, and rather enjoy the cognitive acrobatics of math. Yet viewing my students as numbers —  as mere data points — was something I struggled with for years. Each fall when the spring’s test data rolled in, I’d…

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The Lasting Impact of National Board Certification
Mark Gardner, NBCTApril 24, 2015

Editor’s Note:  Mark Gardner, NBCT, is a high school English teacher in southwest Washington state working in a hybrid role that also allows him to work on professional development experiences for teachers. The views expressed in this blog are his own.   It has now been ten years since my students first got used to the idea that when I was video recording class, I wasn’t doing it to “catch them” doing something wrong. I remember trying to explain to my ninth-grade special-education inclusion students what this whole “National Boards thing” was about–and to be honest, I wasn’t so sure myself,…

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