From NBCT to TIME Magazine

NaShonda Cooke, NBCTNovember 6, 2018

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I remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting in my principal’s office… typing in my information to log on… and when I did I saw the words, I honestly wasn’t expecting to see them:

CONGRATULATIONS!!!! YOU ARE A NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFIED TEACHER!

My heart stopped and all I remember is screaming at the top of my lungs and my principal rushing in to make sure everything was okay. It was the most amazing professional moment of my career. Me… an NBCT!

Well, that was only the beginning. Since then I have served as a mentor and advocate for public education locally and nationally. Receiving that confirmation letter lit a fire that continues to roar proud and loud.

I have served as NBCT Caucus Chair for my state association, NCAE. This means I helped NBCTs move into leadership roles and determine next steps after achieving certification. The process of supporting candidates, serving on committees, etc. for a full term was exhilarating. It was wonderful to be in a room of individuals who were just as proud as I was and ready to give back to the profession. That and the bonus of working with the incomparable Elic Senter – a true warrior for public education in North Carolina. I felt like that was the tip of the iceberg. What could possibly be next?

Well, I’ll tell you. In the 10 years since my initial achievement, I have accomplished quite a bit. I have served as a representative on the school district superintendent’s advisory council and successfully worked to merge schools and community stakeholders to create strong and long-lasting partnerships. I’ve absorbed what the process taught me and ran with it, taking initiative when I recognized something that needed to be addressed.

Some of my initiatives have been giving under-served students opportunities to become their best with first hand experiences outside of the classroom, creating partnerships through parental involvement, community service to connect local authorities and mentors with students, leading effective professional development, and advocating for legislators to provide needed resources in classrooms. I’ve been featured in several articles and TV interviews because of my advocacy for students and educators. That NBCT acronym caught a few eyes, I’m sure.

I truly began to live by those Five Core Propositions. I’m committed to my students. I know how to make a difference in their education and keep it relative. I have taken what I’ve learned and experienced to become an effective member of the education community. The process prepared me for the day I found my voice and courage to speak out publicly at several of our state rallies that focused on supporting equity, voting rights, public education, women’s rights, Medicaid, gun violence, and so much more. I currently serve as co-chair for our governor’s teacher advisory council. State legislators have come to me for advice on how to truly represent educators.

I have been honored with several accolades and awards such as Tarheel of the Week, semifinalist for Educator of the Year for Spectacular Magazine, Kay Trull Outstanding Educator Award from NCAE, Allie C. Black Educator of the Year from TMLA Mentoring Academy, and school-wide Teacher of the Year (twice).

Advocacy leads to recent recognition

Yes, I’ve accomplished a lot and the classroom has opened doors for me. A huge surprise to add to the list is the fact that most recently I was on one of three covers for TIME Magazine as they featured educators around the country. I have truly worked passionately to advance student learning and support the teaching profession. That has included the issue of teachers’ rights such as an appropriate salary.

When that TIME cover arrived, I don’t know who cried more. Me or my mom. The moment it hit me that I am representing educators fighting for what is needed on an international level – it was really surreal. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully grasp that.

How did I get to this point in my career? It all started with one word:

CONGRATULATIONS!

What are you waiting for? No matter where you are in the process, the time is now to make your voice heard through action.

NaShonda Cooke, NBCT

NaShonda Cooke, NBCT

NaShonda Cooke is a 20 year veteran who works in Wake County, NC as a special education teacher and interventionist. As an 8th generational educator, she has received degrees in education from Edinboro University of PA and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Cooke served as NEA’s Vice Chair for the NBCT Caucus in 2011-13. She has been director of a mentoring program to address the needs of minority male students in elementary school called Men of Honor for eight years and currently SEEDS for middle school students. Her focus and passion continues to be serving her students, advocating for policies that adequately support education. She was spotlighted in planbook.com’s "16 Inspiring Teachers Who Left Their Marks on the 2016-17 School Year." Recently, she was featured as one of three cover subjects for TIME Magazine’s feature story on teaching in America. She is the mother of Na’Via, 9, and Victoria, 14.