Following to a T – and add a rap!

January 12, 2021

By: Nicholas Westfall, NBCT

I was in sixth grade during the “No Child Left Behind” era. I was told to choose a career path and somehow determine whether I should take advanced placement, college-prep, or college-tech prep courses in high school. I was eleven years old. I had no career in mind so, with tears in my eyes, I asked my father, “What should I do?”

“Well, Nick, you can be anything you want… Just as long as it’s not retail.”

My father explained how much he hated working weekends and the absurdly long hours from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I was convinced, but his suggestion only eliminated one of a gazillion other career-tracks I had in front of me. I asked, “If you could go back what would you do?”

“Nick, I would forget the money and be a PE teacher. That way, I could teach kids how to play sports and wear basketball shorts every day.” I looked down at my own basketball shorts I was wearing and made that major life decision at eleven.

During that same year, my stepmother, Polly Westfall, and a group of her friends, launched their National Board Certification pursuit in 2000. I remembered her spending all day on Saturdays and many hours after school working on her portfolio. The next thing I remember was how excited we all were when she certified. I still remember her telling me, “Nick, if you follow all the NBCT directions to the ‘T,’ you will certify.”

In 2010, I started my teaching career in North Carolina and every single year I asked myself, “Is this the year I’ll do National Board?” Well, ten years later, I finally summed up the courage and, like Polly, I didn’t do it alone. I handpicked the craziest teacher from my school to be my NBCT partner: Mr. Abraham Catahan.

My biggest piece of advice is the same advice my stepmother gave me. “Follow all of the NBCT directions to the ‘T,’ and you’ll be providing your evaluators with the best evidence of your accomplished teaching.

Follow. The. Directions.

The second piece of advice is to find a crazy teacher friend who wants to do the journey as well. Next piece of advice, know how your score is weighted and spend time on those components accordingly; component 4 is a whole lot of work for only 15%. Finally, do all four components in one year. Be crazy. I suggest this because if you’re anything like me, and you see yourself nitpicking and tinkering with your components over and over — you might as well do all four components because you’ll probably spend the same amount of time obsessing over one component. At least that was our logic.

To sum our journey up with clear, consistent, and convincing evidence – here’s a video log of the journey Abe and I took to be a part of the NBCT community. #NBCTStrong

Lastly, one of my favorite memories of doing the National Board process was a joke I played on the NBCT Facebook groups. I made a music video for my graduating seniors who didn’t get to walk across the stage due to COVID. As a joke, I posted the video in the NBCT support groups on Facebook and asked if I should use my rap video as one of the video submissions for component 3. The immediate and immense amount of concern my fellow NBCT candidates expressed still brings uncontrollable laughter and tears to my face. Here is the video I did not submit for my component 3 portfolio.

Nicholas Westfall, NBCT

Nick Westfall is a National Board Certified physical educator at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. He is also a filmmaker who has written directed two movies (Finding Home and 8 Slices) and is currently writing his third movie, a biopic on guitar hero Eric Gales.