“This is the best thing my union has ever done for me”

One of our core values is ensuring that every student has a caring, committed, qualified teacher. That means educators must have the resources and support to be the very best they can be.

National Board Certification, a voluntary, advanced teaching credential, is an important path to the high-quality experience that students deserve and the professional development teachers need.

In 1987, NEA was one of the founding organizations of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). We continue to be a strong supporter of certification for several reasons, not least of which is the growing body of research linking National Board Certification with improved student achievement.

The certification process is rigorous, but teachers who take on the challenge say it is a powerful experience that energizes them and makes them better at what they do.

NEA affiliates across the country are actively promoting National Board Certification. Many have pushed for and won legislation to pay fees and provide salary stipends to board-certified teachers, while others have bargained contract provisions for release time, fee payment, mentoring/assistance and salary recognition for candidates.

Our affiliates also are providing workshops for candidates, such as the “Jump Start” program, designed to demystify the certification process, delve into the standards and help our members understand the requirements for certification.


Jump Start originated in the state of Washington and it continues to be an important Association-led support for teachers pursuing National Board Certification. To learn more about it, take a look at this guest blog post from Tom White, a National Board Certified teacher:

“This is the best thing my union has ever done for me!”

Hearing that, you might guess a teacher just received a 10% raise, or perhaps a second planning period. What you’d never guess is that this teacher just finished a grueling four-day training, during the summer, in a high school classroom with no air conditioning.

What’s going on?

Jump Start, that’s what.

Jump Start is a three to four-day professional development designed to help teachers understand and prepare for National Board Certification. It began in Washington State back in 2002 as a response by the Washington Education Association (WEA) to growing interest among its members in pursuing this advanced certification.

Although National Board Certification is technically an assessment, virtually every teacher who goes through the process reports a dramatic increase in their teaching capacity – even if they don’t successfully certify. The WEA quickly recognized the value of Board Certification, not just for its members, but primarily for their students. And for the past twelve years they’ve offered this benefit to its members for a nominal fee.

The response has been incredible. Literally hundreds of Washington State teachers flock to these trainings, held twice each summer on different sides of the state.

It starts on a Monday and runs through Thursday afternoon, from 8:00 to 4:00 each day. The trainings are organized into eight half-day “academies” which cover each of the four National Board Components, along with two Foundation academies that give candidates an overall understanding of entire process.

On the final day, each candidate will spend the morning planning and mapping out their candidacy time frame, and spend the afternoon in a small-group sessions led by a National Board Teacher who certified in their certificate area.

The work at Jump Start centers on closely reading the National Board Standards, understanding their scoring rubrics and unpacking the instructions for compiling a portfolio that contains teacher video, student work and written description, analysis and reflection. Candidates work in large groups, small groups, pairs and independently. They network and collaborate. They laugh and sometimes cry.

It is grueling, just like the certification process itself, but members love it.

I’ve been fortunate to have been a founding trainer in Washington, and I’ve been part of every Jumpstart over the years. I’ve seen it grow from forty candidates with four trainers to the point where we take over large, suburban high schools with nearly 600 teachers and over twenty trainers. (And yes, we have to schedule two lunches.)

It’s been even more rewarding to watch Jump Start spread to other states. There are currently more than forty states and locals offering some form of Jump Start, which is now operated by NEA. Recognizing the dynamic nature of effective professional development, the NEA annually brings lead Jump Start trainers together with state trainers to update and refresh each of the eight academies based on changes in the National Board Certification Process, as well as trainer reflections and participant suggestions. It’s an exciting and evolving process.

And the result is an intense, multi-day slog through the most grueling training most teachers will ever experience.

It’s also “The best thing their union has ever done for them.”

One Response to ““This is the best thing my union has ever done for me””

  1. Jodi

    Does NEA have a Jump Start program for school counselors?


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