By: Megan Jenny, NBCT
Like most National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs), I consider myself internally motivated and self-sufficient. When I entered the teaching profession 15 years ago, I set two goals for myself—earn my National Board Certification and complete my PhD in Education. The goals I set were for me, myself, and I to tackle. I believed that achieving at the highest levels would better myself for my students and prove my worth as a teacher and teacher leader. Interestingly, my National Board certification unexpectedly transformed me by bringing me into a village I wasn’t even aware existed.
I started my certification process in 2015, the first year of the redesigned program. My school, led by an administrator who held his National Board certificate, offered to pay registration fees for any teacher who was interested in earning initial National Board certification. This was a generous offer; my school was proud of the existing Nationally Board Certified teachers and displayed their portraits on the wall of the main school entrance. I began to imagine my portrait among the others, a point of pride to see daily as I walked into school.
There were three of us at my school that started and earned our National Board certification over the next three years. Valerie and Amy became an important part of my life for the next two and a half years. We met often—sometimes formally, sometimes in the hallway. We dissected the process, puzzled over the meaning of prompts, passed a tripod back and forth for recording lessons, and held each other accountable for progress towards deadlines. It was encouraging to know I wasn’t the only one giving up sleep and Saturday mornings to study and write about my classroom successes and failures. The three of us—a fourth grade teacher, a literacy coach, and a kindergarten teacher—celebrated our success together. We were National Board Certified Teachers and our portraits were hung on the wall for all to see.
Maintenance of Certification
The next five years passed quickly. In 2020, I decided to step out of the classroom to work full time on my PhD. When it was time to begin my Maintenance of Certification, I was a graduate student and didn’t have a classroom. At this point, I knew I needed to look to my village. There were a number of NBCTs in my life who could support me. The first was my major professor, Margaret-Mary. Frankie was my daughter’s first grade teacher. And finally, Ellen is the school’s curriculum director and a PhD student in the same program as me.
Margaret-Mary recommended that I ask someone at my old school if I could work on my MOC in their classroom. It was natural for me to ask Frankie, who welcomed me with open arms and meant it when she said her classroom was my classroom. I spent time over several weeks getting to know her students, including a handful of days as a substitute when her son was in an accident. When I filmed, it felt as if I was back in my element. My reflections were authentic and meaningful. I was able to connect the learning from my graduate studies to classroom practice, and shared my reflections with Frankie in a way that was collaborative and brought us closer together.
Of course, every writer needs an editor. I asked Ellen if she would mind reading my reflections and offering suggestions. Even though she had been certified for 20 more years than I, Ellen was also up for her Maintenance of Certification, and I returned the favor by editing her components as well. This exercise gave me insight into her beliefs as an educator and deepened our friendship.
I remain forever grateful for the advice, opportunity, and feedback that these other NBCTs provided me.
While I have tried, I don’t think I have properly expressed my gratitude towards my other NBCTs, especially those that supported me through my initial certification and maintenance processes.
Being an NBCT is special; I urge you to look for a village of other NBCTs. My journey became much more meaningful when I allowed others in and situated myself within the village of NBCTs. Even if your school or district doesn’t have many NBCTs, consider staying connected with the National Board through social media, the blog, and advocacy work. Also consider offering support to other teachers who are in process to earn or maintain certification. You never know what you will receive in return.