A decade ago I was three years into my dream job. A middle school Language Arts teacher at my second school in so many years. I had dreamed of doing this since I was a young child and I was finally in it; up to my neck in papers to grade, lessons to plan, e-mails to respond to, parents to call back, students to manage and books to read. I was also 3000 miles from home and beginning a great adventure as a military wife. I heard about National Board Certification from a colleague and looked into the process. The benefits were exciting: increased stipends, professional opportunities, national recognition, and most of all, the continuity it would provide me as a transient teacher.
I began my National Board journey in Washington State with one of the most difficult groups of students I have ever managed. The idea of recording my lessons with these students was daunting, but through the process I learned that National Board is about analyzing and reflecting upon one’s practice; not about being the best all the time. That year I carefully analyzed my students and focused on what they needed individually to be successful, and what I could do to equip them for success. The National Board standards were ingrained in my mind and practice as I reflected on my content expertise and how I could become a better teacher for these students at this moment. And I thought about the “why” of all of my lessons and activities. That is, I reflected on the relevance to the students, standards, and success of everyone in my room. I took days off from work to sit at my computer and play with spacing and eliminate words to get to that exact page count. I spent hours in rooms with people and pretzels poring over papers and analyzing, analyzing, analyzing to get it just right. When I sent off that blue cardboard box full of my video tapes (yes, it was 10 years ago) and papers, I didn’t breathe again until I saw that it had been delivered.
Since then, I have moved four more times, and each time my National Board certificate earned me an advanced state license and respect from my peers and administration. Despite my transiency, I am still placed in leadership positions and have been able to continue moving my career forward, largely because of the respect that accompanies my National Board certificate.
I recently went through the renewal process, and have been awarded a certificate until 2028. I am so proud to be a part of the National Board community, a collection of teachers who care about their practice, their students, and the impacts they have on achievement and educational leadership.
Achieving National Board certification has opened my eyes to being a more effective educator and being able to help others around me: my students and my colleagues. I encourage those teachers who have gone through the process, are undergoing the initial process right now, and have been renewed to maintain their status as National Board Certified Teachers, to continue to strive for the improvement of students’ achievement and educator effectiveness. Those initials – NBCT — carry a great deal of weight, and although every state doesn’t award that financially, they are widely-recognized throughout the country as a sign of an effective teacher. One to look out for.