My curiosity to become a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) was sparked when I was exploring paths to evaluate my craft. I was at a point in my career where I needed to delve deeply into my practice. I wondered how I could be more effective. How could I translate my knowledge and practice into professional development that was effective and individualized? How could I analyze my practice in an authentic manner?
Discovering the National Board certification process was just what I needed. My decision to pursue National Board certification was a commitment to my practice, my students, and community. I learned that the process was deeply personal and individualized; it could be what I chose to make it.
Luckily, somebody recommended the Nevada National Board Professional Learning Institute (National Board Institute) to me. After speaking to the director and the professional learning facilitators, I was certain that National Board certification was for me. They offered logistical support in learning about and understanding the National Board Components, collaborating with colleagues, engaging in cognitive coaching, and so much more. What was immediately apparent to me was the closely knit, diligent, and unwavering commitment to elevation of the teaching profession among the professional learning facilitators and National Board candidates. I knew without hesitation that this was the place for me.
I attempted and submitted all four Components of the National Board certification process in one school year because I wanted to give myself completely to the process. The decision came after many conversations with my family and my school community about the time I would need to commit to the process. Without their support, I simply could not have submitted my Components. Many other NBCTs will surely nod at recollection of the number of hours that are spent planning, writing, re-writing, and formatting during the late hours of school nights and weekends. Yet, every minute was worth it. I learned an exponential amount about myself, about my potential, and my professional needs.
Why was I so Committed?
Having lost a lot of dear and capable colleagues to attrition, I knew the impact of losing loving, effective educators; not just for students, but for school communities. There had to be something out there to support teachers’ instructional practice and reflective process, something to nurture and validate our practice. I believe teachers have the answers to improving educational processes, especially for traditionally marginalized communities. However, we lose teachers because our educational systems do not honor and nurture the professional developmental and reflective process needed to become an accomplished teacher. Instead, teachers burn out as they give their all in isolated, data-obsessed silos. As a special education teacher, I absolutely abide by data-guiding instruction and I agree that data is key to academic success. What crushes teachers’ spirits is the application of data on students without acknowledging their humanity and the application of data on teachers as a sole means to assess teacher effectiveness. The reason the research world struggles to determine a simple model for teacher accountability and effectiveness is the lack of attention we give to guiding teachers through deeply individualized reflection about their practice and developing their practice through mentorship, as well as basing decisions on teachers’ knowledge of students and their needs.
In many ways, our educational system forgets about the human metacognitive process it takes for a teacher to learn to be effective. The National Board certification process made me feel human again. It reminded me that human connections and relationships mattered. My knowledge of students and their needs was both my foundation and my roadmap in making decisions in my instructional practice. Grounding my practice in the National Board Standards gave me the authority and autonomy to guide my students through holistic educational experiences that reflected and respected their needs and identity. The National Board Professional Standards and the Five Core Propositions clearly communicate the expectations to teach to the whole child, holistically engaging the child’s family and community. As teachers, we are expected to teach content, community engagement, and social-emotional skills that translate into a collaborative, happy, inquisitive learner. Celebrating this type of learning enhances a teacher’s process of becoming an accomplished teacher. Becoming an accomplished teacher does not necessarily mean we are perfect teachers. Instead, it is a commitment to participate in continual, revolving reflective practice. From the National Board Standards, to the Five Core Propositions, to the Architecture of Accomplished Teaching – it’s about the process of deep and vulnerable self-reflection completely founded on the immediate students’ social, emotion, and academic needs.
I am appreciative of the Board certification process because it is about teachers teaching and challenging teachers. There is immense value in engaging in a process that was completely designed by educators for educators, experts in their content area, in building school communities, and developing stronger teachers.
I discovered quickly that the National Board process itself is a teacher. It teaches you to be reflective and honest. It teaches you to ask difficult questions and support your quest in answering those questions with careful analysis and reflection. I learned that I needed to allow the National Board process to teach me – where I was struggling to design a Component or write a response revealed to me my areas of need. I learned to turn my frustrations into questions. I asked myself, “What does the National Board certification process intend for me to learn at this moment? What about my practice needs more focus? Who can I collaborate with to understand this? What more do I need to learn about my students?”
Learning I had achieved my certification with that burst of fireworks across the National Board portal was a moment of elation for me and my family. I had become a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) not only myself, and definitely not by myself. I dedicate my certification to my support system and to my students and other students who are just like them.
Title I schools are underrepresented in terms of numbers of NBCTs teaching within the school community. We know that teachers are less likely to pursue Board certification if they work in with “disadvantaged” youth and that mobility after certification reduces students’ of colors opportunity to have an NBCT (Goldhaber, 2006).
I asked myself, what is the likelihood that a student of color (particularly those who have limited access to resources) has an NBCT who is also of color?
Wanting to represent underrepresented communities strengthened my commitment to becoming an NBCT because as my dear friend, mentor, and colleague, Dr. Tonia Holmes-Sutton says, “All children deserve to have an NBCT.” I would add that every teacher deserves to have the opportunity to base their practice on the National Board Professional Standards and the Five Core Propositions and to have the support to consider beginning the process of becoming an NBCT.
Less than 18% of teachers are people of color and less than 3% of all teachers are NBCTs. Increasing these percentages holds a significant contribution to increasing students’ of color success rates in schools nationwide.
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards leads by example. When I needed inspiration during the Board certification process, I looked to NBCT role models like Peggy Brookins, CEO and President of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, who is also an NBCT, and who is a person of color.
It is an understatement to say I am honored to join the walks of other NBCTs who use their certification to address and enact equity in their classrooms, networks, schools, and policy molding circles.
I will continue to commit myself to engaging in self-reflection and aligning my practice to the Five Core Propositions and the National Board Standards.
I will support other National Board teacher candidates as they pursue their certification, using the way I was supported as a model. I will also encourage other teachers to begin the process to Board certification.
I will collaborate with my colleagues to ensure students within our charge have access to high quality, culturally relevant instruction that addresses the equity needs we are diligently and tirelessly working towards addressing. Our students deserve it and are worth it – every bit!