Editor’s Note: Joanna Schimizzi, NBCT, is a biology teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina. The views expressed in this blog are her own.
When the NCAA basketball tournament comes each spring, my husband becomes a March Madness fanatic, but I recently realized that there’s something I’ve become obsessed with: encouraging other teachers to begin the National Board Certification journey. Unlike March Madness, where there are 67 losers and only one winner, all NBCTs can be successful, which is a win for all of our students as well.
I’m at a new school this year, and many of the wonderful teachers that I work with are not yet National Board Certified. How could this be?! Isn’t "NBCT" in your email address the sign of a teacher who is a lifelong learner? Don’t you want to be invited to the Teaching and Learning Conference, where you and your teacher friends can “geek out” over the best speakers?
I was recently doing some education advocacy work on Capitol Hill with a group of teachers that I had just met, and as we introduced ourselves, I knew right away that I would have a closer bond with some of them: these were the ones who introduced themselves as National Board Certified Teachers. It’s our own co-ed fraternity where we see each other as rock stars. We laugh, we applaud, we advocate for changes for our classroom. NBCTs self-select to undergo the certification process because they seek to improve for the ultimate goal of supporting all our students. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of this inspiring group?
As I look around my new school, I keep thinking about the many people that would be a great fit for undertaking the certification process. How do I know who will be a great candidate? Teachers who elect to to attempt certification often have one of the following personalities:
The overachiever – Take my friend Michael Dunlea. He is a National Fellow with America Achieves and a National Fellow with Hope Street Group. He started an organization called Stafford Teachers and Residents Together (START) to bring the community together to help heal after Superstorm Sandy. But most importantly, he is an amazing 2nd grade teacher who is constantly looking for ways to improve. Do you know an overachiever like Michael? How is he not an NBCT already? It turns out he attempted to certify and missed qualifying by two points. Yet, he is so vocal and honest about how eager he is to re-submit. Love this guy! We need to #SupportTheJourney to encourage more teachers like Michael to become an NBCT.
The wise newbie – Imagine having to float between three different classrooms during your first year of teaching Biology. Then your mentor changes. Then you are asked to teach AP Biology in your third year. Oh, and you work in your family’s business and help take care of your nine-year-old brother. I’m describing my friend Diana Luong. Two summers ago, she embarked on a leadership journey with the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education and now she has the leadership bug. She is a tireless worker who is wise beyond her years, and is very ready to embark on the NBCT journey. Now that she has the requisite number of years of teaching experience, I can’t wait to #SupportTheJourney as she starts with her content area assessments this summer.
The wonderer – He’s brilliant. He changes the lives of both students and his colleagues. He asks questions instead of offering answers. So why isn’t he an NBCT? Who knows?! This is my friend Malcolm Hill. This is the person in your school who is so busy being an excellent educator that he doesn’t even think about himself. As a certification fanatic, I continue to tell him how much he might gain from being a candidate and an NBCT, and how inspiring the NBCT community is. I #SupportTheJourney for Malcolm in hopes that one day (hopefully soon) he’ll embark on it.
As I think about why I turned out to be such an NBCT cheerleader, I realize that it’s because the journey of certifying taught me so much about myself, about my students and about how to be an ever-improving teacher. However, that journey requires courage, dedication and lots of support. I had a great number of NBCTs at my former school, and they inspired and supported me every step of the way. I want every teacher to have the support to embark on this wonderful journey that makes us better teachers and helps us find colleagues who continue to inspire us!
We’re over 100,000 teachers strong now; come on and join the club, and invite other teachers to do the same! Let’s make portfolio submission time (April and May of each year) as exciting as March Madness!