In 2006 I arrived at Tahoma High School after 19 years teaching in a neighboring district. I certified in 2003 (AYA Math) and tried to start a facilitation program in that district. I moved before that program took roots but when I arrived in my currrent district I asked my principal, Terry Duty, about starting a facilitation program. I had previously received training from my state and was excited to help my colleagues earn their national certification. From my experience I knew there was tremendous potential for professional growth by pursuing National Board Certification. I also knew sharing this potential to our administrators and teachers would be an excellent selling point. At Tahoma HS we only had 3 NBCTs so there was a definite need to offer a support program and I set out to meet that need.
Mr. Duty agreed and my first year of running a group (seven candidates from five certification areas) was underway. My district supported this endeavor with funding (one day of sub pay, copying costs, my salary, etc.) and my principal supported us by allowing us to use staff workshop days to meet. We also met on various weekends but having time to meet during the school day (every other month) was tremendously helpful.
Our principal, Mr. Duty, says “I believe the National Board process is one of the best professional development models a school principal can support and offer to their staff. The heart of our success is three pillars; Time, Leadership, and Building based collaboration.” Specifically:
- Time and resources
- Finding creative ways to capture quality collaborative time takes creativity and sacrifice of building wide initiatives. We dedicate professional development time to get our National Board candidates together as often as possible. Excusing teachers from meetings, committees, school assemblies and many other chunks of time is critical to supporting our candidates. Additionally, we provide start-up money from our building funds as well as resources of copies, supplies and access to our video productions program.
- I believe designing our program to support building a grass roots program is foundational to success. Pull teachers into your office and encourage them to participate, target teachers that need a nudge to get started. Then have a strong teacher leader who is National Board certified lead a cohort group through the process. Pay the leader a leadership stipend for their work and dedication to help guide the candidates through the process.
- The power of teaming up. Having a cohort start the process together and go through each step with supports builds a stronger process, hence better, stronger teachers in the end. Education is too isolating to let teachers go it alone through National Board Certification. Build cohort groups and use the power of teams so our teachers can maximize their results.
We had challenges. I learned quickly to adapt to working with adults. They all learn in different ways and on their own schedules. They have commitments that can get in the way of “staying on schedule” so flexibility was required on my part. And, blending the various personalities in the room in order to keep our group progressing to our submission date was, at times, difficult. As I adapted the program, it was important that all members of the group felt comfortable sharing their work because we edited and provided feedback together. Another critical component was ensuring all learners were included no matter their learning style or working style.
The challenges I encountered were minor when compared to the growth they experienced. It was very rewarding being able to help my colleagues pursue this demanding certification. High schools can be very departmentalized. Working with a small group of dedicated teachers from Art, Social Studies, English, CTE and Science (and myself in Math) we represented a very nice cross-section of the school. Branching out from our various departments was extremely rewarding and provided me with an appreciation for the work my colleagues do every day. In addition, when reading their entries (now they are called components!) I gained a level of respect for my colleagues that carries with me to this day.
In the first year of my group we had some candidates miss the qualifying score and some received their certification. The group that missed the score all tried again and earned their certification in the second year. Over the course of the next 2-3 years, the program remained at the high school with the support of my principal leading the way. Soon, other principals started asking about the program and we began a district certification program a few years later. This provided further challenges, but I have since had the privilege of helping teachers from Kindergarten to Junior High (while still working with the high school). At last count, we have 43 NBCTs at our high school. Some of them have moved in from other districts and others have certified while working with my facilitation groups. We have a wall with 8×10 photos of these teachers that visitors see when they walk into the school.
We now have two NBCTs that are leading the group. One is a former member from one of my groups and the other moved into our district having already certified. Both have received facilitation training and are leading a group of teachers from the district. Our program’s success and sustainability is impressive and shows the dedication of our staff, our admin team and our district in supporting this amazing process.