Why administrators should consider National Board Certification

August 25, 2021

Is NBCT for me?  Of course! In the year 2000 when I achieved National Board certification, nobody in my district had attempted nor had achieved certification. So I decided to take that plunge! I initially sought National Board certification because I wanted to continue to build my mastery of teaching and I thought going through the process would be a challenge, and ultimately worthwhile. Turns out, there are also some potential, and enticing incentives waiting around the corner for administrators with National Board Certification. Money should never be the motivator for growing professionally (although it does not hurt)!

Why NBCT?  Compared to many professional opportunities that I have taken advantage of, National Board certification gave validation to my professional skill that was in place and effective, but it also forced me into a critical examination of what I could do to improve my practice.  At the end of the process, when the “achieved” became visible on the website in November 2000, I sat in a college computer lab (when I was supposed to be in class) and cried. I never cry.  Achieving this credential meant the world to me. It was among the most difficult yet rewarding journeys I have ever been on.

I left the classroom in 2013 for a succession of administrative positions in which I learned and grew in amazing ways but I yearned to be a leader who could have a greater, more direct impact on students and teachers.

After the initial certification…  Fast forward to 2010 when I was still in a high school science classroom and I eagerly re-upped my certification for an additional 10 years.  This was not nearly as stressful as the full initial process, but it was still rigorous, enlightening and forced me to be introspective. A quality self-check in year 20 of my professional career.

Press fast forward again to 2020 in the midst of COVID-19 and an attempt to renew while serving as an administrator and also completing a doctorate! I left the classroom in 2013 for a succession of administrative positions in which I learned and grew in amazing ways but I yearned to be a leader who could have a greater, more direct impact on students and teachers.  I finished the dissertation, defended, and published then moved right into the preparations for submission of the renewal portfolio.

What did that renewal entail?  Well, for me, I am a fortunate individual who made it under the deadline and was eligible for the 10 year renewal.  In year 32 of my career, I wanted something to carry me for the longest period possible, so I pushed like a crazy person to do what needed done. I borrowed a classroom. I borrowed the students. I had my colleagues engage in professional development during a stressful year.

What did I learn?  I was reminded in the most powerful way that National Board Certification is an amazing process.  I struggled with the technology – the Smartboard, SWVL, Google Classroom, multiple screens, document camera, and more.  I felt like I needed a video and sound crew!  I had students in the classroom, spread all about and masked, as well as a group of virtual students.  I was addressing both groups, traveling around the room, chatting and checking on the virtual students, and managing all of the other classroom tasks required of a high school educator while also being masked myself.  The room, not air conditioned, was hot, and the mask only amplified that fact. The content I was teaching was a breeze, definitely like getting right back on a bicycle.  The rest of it – challenging, exhausting, frustrating, and yes, manageable but not ideal.

The real lesson in my case.  My situation as well as the lessons learned were unique and specific to the time frame of my renewal. But the lesson for all administrators is this – whether you investigate National Board certification or ever go down that path – PLEASE get out there in a classroom and do the work of our teachers.  Two things will happen.  (1) They will know that you get it; and (2) You will know how difficult teaching is today compared to when you may have last been in a classroom.  Hats off to all educators, not just in the past two years but beyond that.  National Board certification reminds us of our “why.”  It is all about the students.

Fingers crossed that on December 11, 2021 I find that my highly valued NBCT credential is one I can keep for another 10 years.

Yolanda Harman, NBCT

Yolanda Michelle Harman presently serves as Assistant Principal of Northern Garrett High School for the Garrett County Public School system. She taught at NHS and served as science chairperson from 1990 - 2013. She was also the Supervisor of College and Career Readiness for GCPS (2013 - 2017) and Supervisor of Science and Mathematics for WCPS (2017-2019). This is her 32nd year in the state of Maryland educational system, her 30th year @ NHS and her 3rd as Assistant Principal. Dr. Harman earned her B.S. in biology from Gannon University and her teaching certification from Frostburg State University where she also obtained her M.Ed. in Administrative and Supervision and a Doctor of Education as a member of the 1st Inaugural Cohort of the program. In 2000, Dr. Harman achieved National Board for Professional Teaching Certification which she successfully renewed in 2010. She is in the renewal cycle again with a December 11, 2021 determination of achievement of this credential. Dr. Harman was a former MD Biology Teacher of the Year (2001), Garrett County Teacher of the Year (2005), MD Teacher of the Year finalist (2005), Christa McAuliffe Fellow (2002), and USA Today Teacher of the Year (2001). She has served as an AP Biology reader and table leader since 2000 (-present), MD and AP Assessment Question Writer (various), Toshiba Exploravision Judge (1990 - present, and has reviewed/edited Modern Biology textbook for Holt, Rinehart and Winston (in the 2000s)In 2013-2015, Dr. Harman served on the Governor's Task Force for Senate Bill 740. She currently serves as the Past President for the Maryland Science Supervisors Association, a Board Member for Western MD AHEC, and a MASSP Board Member.