Coming Full Circle: My journey to achieving National Board Certification

January 12, 2024

By: Janice Avellana, NBCT – Honolulu, Hawaii

I graduated in 2000 with my Master’s of Education in Teaching and began my first year as a fourth-grade teacher at a Title 1 school. After a tumultuous start, I finished out the year and got bumped out to another school. That second year was better, but I still had a nagging feeling that I had made a terrible mistake by going into teaching—I was severely depressed and cried too many times to count in school bathrooms, hallways, and in the parking lot in my friend April’s car. Having left one career for this new one, I couldn’t believe I again found so much agony at work. How did this happen?

Then I got pregnant with my first child, and I left teaching for seven years to be a stay-at-home mom, never intending to return to the profession, but our growing family needed a second income. So I reluctantly returned to part-time and, in 2011, dove back into full-time teaching. It was rough. I survived a first year back with barely anything left in me, but somehow, this time around, it was different because I was different. I had begun to manage my depression and found ways to build a supportive community at my new school. I still struggled and found teaching extremely challenging on so many fronts, but becoming a mom and learning to manage my mental health during those interim years changed me. My students and families were sources of grace and joy to me now, and life grew where it had once been laid fallow.

Once upon a time, I was absolutely sure I could not be at peace in the classroom. I fought against it hard. I spent so many years straddling the threshold, with one foot in teaching and one foot out, my eye always on the exit sign. After I left the first time, I swore up and down that I would not go back into the teaching profession because too many things had gone down—I was sure there was no life left for me there.

And yet, there was a good I did not see. God took me right where I was, broken and spent, and rebuilt me from the ground up within the field I was standing in. He didn’t take me out of it as I had begged Him to do over the years. He redeemed a work I felt was unredeemable. He brought joy into places I was sure there would only be pain.

Coming from those years of struggle and misery, no one is more stunned than I am that, today, I became a National Board Certified Teacher. I’ve come full circle. Being National Board Certified means more to me than a few more letters beside my name. It means I am resilient and that there is a hope in me that lives on still. It means that I really am a teacher, after all. I’ve finally found my way home.

Janice Avellana, NBCT

Jan Avellana was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and has always been part fish. Perhaps because her proper form is a mermaid, she has never quite found her way in the hustle and bustle of a traditional life. ​ A wanderer at heart, Jan’s first creative inklings came through creative writing as a child. She was known to burrow herself away in snug, sunlit corners as she escaped into her world of books and writing. Much later, Jan discovered the visual arts and found her wanderlust continued as she explored different media—collage, illustration, graphic design, painting, encaustic art, and papier mache, just to name a few. Even today, she is most at home with wide open seas and vast landscapes that allow her to follow wherever her heart leads. ​ Jan is an elementary teacher by day, an artist, and a writer by night. She is always a mom to her boys Seth and Cody, her fur baby Radar, and partner-in-crime to her husband, Steve.