Because I believe so deeply that the National Board certification process makes great teachers even better, I’m constantly encouraging accomplished teachers to pursue certification. It’s not uncommon for teachers to deflect by saying they plan to pursue building administration and that becoming an NBCT won’t help them achieve goals of becoming a principal some day.
I could not disagree more.
As a teacher, it is highly motivating to be led by an administrator who took the time to achieve National Board certification. When a principal is an NBCT, their teachers know they highly valued teaching and worked hard to hone their craft. An NBCT principal could not be accused of viewing the classroom as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
NBCT principals also recognize the complexities and challenges of teaching well. Such principals know the value of reflection and its influence on growth; they are better able to use evaluations to help teachers grow to become better practitioners in their own specific contexts.
As a parent, those four letters have been even more powerful. When I chose my son’s preschool, I took great confidence in knowing that the director was an NBCT. A former Kindergarten teacher of twelve years, April Manning now leads the St. Joseph Child Development Center and draws upon her experience in the classroom to inform curriculum, policy, and staffing development decisions at the preschool and daycare.
April reflects on what becoming an NBCT meant for her instruction: “I had always been a reflective teacher, always looking for ways to do things better. National Board, in my opinion, gave my reflection more direction, more purpose. I had standards with which I was able to measure my own practice. I had the experience of observing myself and becoming aware of my own strengths and weaknesses.”
Not only did the process improve her own teaching practice, but her literacy certification that spanned from early childhood to beyond high school also gave her insight into how the path of literacy learning continued beyond her “own small window” of teacher experience in Kindergarten.
She continues, “I was able to see what comes before, to help those who had scattered skills that needed filling in. I was able to see what comes after, to challenge those who had mastered their current grade level skills. It helped me see the bigger picture, and thus, made me more intentional about how I planned, prepared, and delivered my lessons.”
Her certification has directly impacted her understanding of Kindergarten readiness and prepared her to be truly exceptional in her current role. From protecting the power of creative, unstructured play to enacting a policy of positive discipline, April seeks to implement researched-based, best practices that she knows are good for kids, even if it isn’t always easy to get everyone on board.
Not only does her National Board certification inform her decision-making process for the preschool curriculum, it also informs the ways in which she supports her daycare staff, whom she always describes as teachers.
She shares, “I meet my teachers (who I now consider to be my most important students in this new role as director) where they are, and by pushing them to learn and grow and reflect, I try to take them where they need to be.” She works hard to help teachers set goals and follow the Architecture of Accomplished Teaching, even if she doesn’t call it out by name.
It’s clear that the benefits of the National Board certification process carry well beyond the classroom, when teacher leaders choose to advance their careers. Reflection makes strong leaders even more effective and inspires the teachers they lead to be more reflective as well.
What teacher wouldn’t want to be led by a reflective practitioner? What parent wouldn’t want that for their child? When teacher leaders choose to become NBCTs, the benefits are exponential.