Five Years a Candidate: Maryland Teacher’s Story of GRACE for the Journey

January 26, 2022

By: Angela Killebrew, NBCT

A Science Teacher shares her five-year journey to National Board certification culminating in December 2021.

I want to share my story with hopes it will inspire someone else to find their confidence to stay the course and accomplish their goal of National Board certification.

In the Spring of 2016, I celebrated my 50th birthday and I started thinking more deeply about my career as an educator. According to research, “No matter how old you are and no matter how good you are at your job, it’s important to never stop growing and learning” (Gunn, n.d.). I thought to myself, “to maintain my interest in this field, I need to change something I am doing.”

Although I enjoyed teaching science and working with many of the students, I was eager for a new direction and ready to advance my professional skills. Meanwhile, I happened to read an email from my school district inviting employees to attend a professional development fair. When I attended the event, I enjoyed networking with other educational professionals and gathering information to connect me with my next opportunity. Studies show “one habit of highly effective teachers is to make and keep commitments of proactive growth” (Education and Personal Change, 2016).

Fast forward to the NBCT portfolio and testing process. Little did I know that my strengths and weaknesses would be challenged in a way I still ponder how best to describe. Let me now summarize my journey from year one to year five.

Year One: I set out to work on all four components. However, as the year progressed, my enthusiasm had waned and I was overwhelmed. What was I thinking?

Year Two:  I signed up to retake components.  Status = Not Met.

Year Three: I signed up to retake components. Status = Not Met. At this point, I contemplated giving up. I thought I was not cut out for this. I questioned if continuing the journey was worth my time and monetary resources devoted time. Work-life balance was a challenge and then add work for the National Board. I frequently wondered what was I thinking?

Year Four:  We all faced the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to virtual teaching, which gave me more time at home. I was able to re-commit to the process. It was also very helpful that the National Board offered a set of deferral options for candidates. I opted for deferring my submission to the next cycle.

Year Five: I signed up for the final retake. I also attended a National Board virtual writing workshop and submitted my last portfolio in May 2021. Then, in December 2021 I was delighted to open my email to see “Congratulations = Status Achieved NBCT

Lessons Learned Along the Way

Here are the strategies I learned as a National Board candidate that helped me maintain productivity during the process:

  • Plan: Write your SMART goals before you start the process. Make a commitment to yourself that you will finish what you start.
  • Practice: Apply and repeat the 5 Core Propositions to your teaching practice until they become part of your procedural knowledge. Be objective and embrace a growth mindset.
  • People: Surround yourself with like-minded people. Actively engage in any local National Board support sessions as your specialized professional learning community. Respect and value the expertise of your NBCT mentors. Accept their constructive feedback as you apply yourself to completing the portfolio components.
  • Perseverance: Find what motivates and inspires you to keep going when life gets tough. Know that the achievement of National Board certification is a process that happens in stages – each step you take must “be intentional.”.
  • Purposeful – Know your Why. Have a clear idea of why you want to accomplish National Board certification. Achieving Board certification is a process that happens in stages – each step you take must “be intentional.”.

Being a teacher is more than a career for me…it is a component of GOD’s purpose my on life.

Special thanks to my family for your encouragement and love. Also, I want to recognize the mentors who assisted me on my journey out of the starting gate, midway through the process, and across the finish line. You each invested significantly in helping me on my journey.


Angela Killebrew, NBCT

Angela is a National Board Certified High School Science Teacher (CTE Natural Resources) who achieved certification in December 2021. She works in a suburban school district in the central region of the state of Maryland. Teaching Environmental Science for the past 10 years in an alternative placement program for at-risk youth Serves as the Green Team Coordinator who successfully guided her school community through the achievement of their 1st Green School Certification in 2015. In 2015 she also was selected to receive the Excellence in Education Award by the City of Bowie. Since 2018 Angela has been serving as the Science Department Chair and is an active member of the school-based equity and excellence leadership team. Invited to serve on the Teacher Technology Leadership Team in her district for SY 16/17 to 17/18 where she was instrumental in serving as a teacher technology mentoring, and facilitator of Professional Development workshops on Integrating Technology in the Classroom. Angela frequently volunteers to write grant proposals to support the youth gardening/landscape programs at her school ( most recently awarded a 20K grant funds by The Anacostia Watershed Foundation for the design and installation of an outdoor classroom on the schoolyard. She actively advocates for youth leadership, teacher collaboration, and sustainable community partnerships. Follow Angela on Twitter: @techsavvypro