Why Do I Fly?

September 22, 2016

It’s not quite 5 AM and I’m sitting on another plane, returning from another trip. Today is flight number 105 so far this year. It’s dark and cold up here at 33,000 feet. I miss my husband, my colleagues, heck I even miss my coffee mug…but I’m filled with anticipation and know that the time I’m waiting for is coming…and there it is…. dawn has broken. As the hope inducing pink and orange rays spread across the sky, I’m filled with a joy almost as satisfying as that moment when a student’s eyes light up with understanding of a concept you taught them. It’s magic every time.

Every time I see the dawn spreading over the sky, I find myself thinking about the #NBCTstrong movement. I know that right now in the homes I’m flying over, Alabama NBCTs are waking up and getting ready to light the worlds of their students. They’re reflecting on the lessons from yesterday and making subtle adjustments to the plans for today as they go through their before school routines.

As a National Board Certified Teacher, I know the powerful positive difference that those adjustments and reflective teaching mindsets will make for students. I spent years in the classroom and my heart and mind are always filled with the students for whom I made a difference, as well as for those I didn’t have the chance to reach.

For the past five years I’ve been working at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and have had this frequent and literal 35,000 foot view as I’ve worked to develop policies and partnerships around the country to give more students the advantage of having an NBCT in their classroom. I meet with policymakers, grant makers, tribal leaders – decision makers at all levels.

When I’m really lucky I get to meet with my fellow NBCTs and groups of candidates for Board certification. Of course some things can be handled with emails, phone calls, and Webex. However there really is no substitute for being there at the table, looking the decision maker in the eye and stating the facts clearly, consistently and convincingly – students of Board-certified teachers learn more. There are policies and practices that foster systemic growth in the number of Board-certified teachers and we need to help establish and strengthen those policies until they are the norm.

There is an urgency to this work that makes it easy to keep going. Children need us and we need them to build a better future for all of us. I believe, and the research backs me up on this, that EVERY child in EVERY ZIP Code #ECEZC deserves a Board-certified teacher and so I’m going to keep flying to the meetings and events that are helping to make that vision the reality.

If you are reading this, odds are that you are also working to improve outcomes for students. Together, we are making it happen across the country. Despite sometimes feeling lonely, I know I’m never alone in this work. Even up here at 35,000 feet I’m #NBCTStrong with you.

If you notice a plane overhead as you go about your day, maybe you’ll spare a moment to think "there goes Accardi…probably off to tell someone about ATLAS or how NBCTs can help craft great policies for districts under ESSA or something." Often I’m asked, why are you always flying all over the country when you could be home, in your classroom doing the job you love? The answer is always the same: I fly because there are teachers and children in all those twinkling towns down there who need …who deserve the teaching profession that National Board is helping to build.