The Process of Earning Board Certification Made a Difference for Me and My Students

November 17, 2016

I completed the field experience for my undergraduate degree in education with a brilliant third grade language arts teacher. She was just dynamite in her classroom! Her students loved her. Her lessons were engaging. Her classroom was a positive place where students were actively learning. I was incredibly inspired by her teaching. Yet, there was something else about her that was unlike any other teacher I’d ever known. She was a leader in the school and community. It was the first time I’d seen a teacher lead so strongly beyond the four walls of her classroom. When she wasn’t teaching, she was writing grants and organizing school-community partnership events. I wanted to be just like her because I saw what a large-scale impact she was having on so many students.  

She would often mention something she’d learned while completing the National Board certification process as she gave feedback to me about my practice. In fact, she mentioned earning her National Board Certification so often that I began to wonder if every teacher was certified. She made it seem like the natural next step for a professional once they obtained their teaching license. I actually began to equate her leadership and ability to operate her classroom with her Board certification. This mindset and the desire to be as much like her as possible led me to pursue my Board certification.

When I started the process in 2013, I lacked confidence as an educator. It is hard to describe, but I felt in my heart that I was doing a good job with my students. However, in my head, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know what evidence to look at for proof, and I’ve never believed that test data paints the whole picture. So, something was missing in my understanding of my effectiveness as a teacher. There were so many things that I wanted to do as an educator that I wasn’t doing because I wasn’t sure I was good enough.

The process of earning Board certification forced me to think deeply and critically about the decisions I was making with students and my teaching. I learned a lot about myself as an educator as I wrote about my practice for each component. I learned that I had strong knowledge of my students and could meet their collective and individual needs. I learned that I was articulate and could write about education. I learned that I had some strong opinions about the field and could justify my opinions with research and experience. I learned that I could pinpoint my own areas of weakness and identify ways to address those. I could keep listing all of the things I learned about myself as an educator for many more paragraphs. However, the most important thing I learned was that I absolutely should have great confidence in myself. The NBCT process helped me see the evidence of the great work I was doing.

Once I realized I deserved to have confidence in myself as an educator, I began to branch out as a professional. I started writing grants and organizing large-scale community/school projects. I have sought and been accepted to a number of unique and rewarding professional activities. I became an ASCD Emerging Leader which has afforded me the opportunity to write about education to large audiences. I was asked to serve on the Editorial Board for Arts and Activities Magazine. I was able to attend the National Gallery of Art’s Teacher Institute. I also received some awards for my teaching. The recognition has been very rewarding for me, but not as rewarding as seeing the growth in myself.

Reflecting on this growth always leads me back to thinking about my students and my school. My confidence and all of these accomplishments have been doubly rewarding. I have been presented with so many incredible opportunities that have benefitted me personally, but each of those opportunities has benefited my students as well. Being an NBCT has made me a better teacher, a better leader, and a better human being.

Amanda Koonlaba, NBCT

Amanda Koonlaba teaches art to elementary students in Tupelo, MS. She is National Board-certified in Early/Middle Childhood Art. She holds a masters degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, as well as a specialists degree in Educational Leadership. She loves to write, create, and collaborate. Connect with her.