It’s a New Year, and we have a new group of outstanding teachers to celebrate! I can’t think of a better way to start 2018 than by saluting the many educators who are experts at reaching and inspiring students. That’s why I’m so excited to recognize all the NEA members who completed the National Board Certification process and were notified in December 2017 that they are now National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs).
To date, there are more than 118,000 NBCTs across the nation. Offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Board certification is a voluntary, advanced teaching credential, and an important path to the high-quality educational experience students deserve and the professional development teachers need. The most recent NBCTs were in the first group to complete the National Board’s revised assessment, redesigned to make the process more affordable, efficient, and flexible.
The certification process is challenging, requiring time, energy, and commitment. But every NBCT I know will tell you it’s well worth it and makes them better at what they do. The research backs this up.
To get NEA members started, we offer NEA National Board Jump Start, a comprehensive seminar to provide candidates with more information and demystify the process. NEA affiliates across the country are promoting certification and some have even won legislation to pay for the process and provide release time for candidates. Check out the National Board website for more information. If becoming certified is one of your New Year’s resolutions, now’s the time to get started.
Read the guest post below to get the scoop from one of the new Board-Certified teachers: Chris Erickson, an English Language Arts teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan and NBCT in ELA Adolescence and Young Adulthood. Congratulations, Chris!
I didn’t always see myself as a teacher leader. At first, I focused heavily on curriculum, instruction, and assessment, getting the hang of teaching high school English and learning how to navigate the school. The Teacher Leadership Institute, along with Jump Start, helped me develop the confidence I needed not only to step into leadership, but also to pursue National Board Certification.
Like other early-career educators, initially I was learning the ropes: how to connect formative and summative assessments, how to motivate my most challenging students, and how to inspire students with their writing. I wanted to become the best teacher I could be. Several of my colleagues attained National Board Certification during my first year, and I remember telling myself that someday, that would be me. It wasn’t until I moved back to Michigan and became involved with my union that I set out on a path toward certification.
Fast forward to the summer of 2014, almost 10 years after I started teaching. I had moved around, taught in a variety of settings, and was teaching high school English in a comprehensive public school. In June, I got an e-mail from my union about the Teacher Leadership Institute (TLI). The e-mail was intriguing and posed three questions:
- Are you ready to take hold of your career, learning to lead in matters of practice and policy?
- Do you ever find yourself thinking, “If more teachers were leading, then…”—and wishing you were one of those teachers?
- Are you eager to make a difference beyond your classroom—but not sure where to begin?
I still didn’t see myself as a teacher leader, but throughout my decade of teaching I had a consistent feeling, an itch, that there was more I could do to address issues and disparities in public education that extended beyond my classroom. But I was unsure. Did I have the skills? Could I balance fully serving my students with taking on other activities? I knew that I didn’t want to become an administrator, but I wasn’t sure what teacher leadership could look like.
TLI was the catalyst that I needed. A collaboration between NEA, MEA, and my local union, TLI combined face-to-face and virtual meetings, developing a set of skills to launch teachers into teacher leadership. I was fortunate to be able to create and execute my capstone project with two other district colleagues in TLI. For me, this was a pivotal moment: It was the moment we realized we were teacher leaders, and our anxieties and imposter syndrome melted away. We didn’t have time to doubt ourselves anymore; keeping our students’ best interests in mind, we had only to act.
Our project focused on advocating for implementation of National Board cohort models at the district and at the state level. At a State Board of Education meeting, we learned how to organize, lead, and persist. We learned that teacher leaders don’t give up easily. Teacher leaders see the long-term picture and try multiple angles.
I made connections in TLI that led me to NEA’s Jump Start Program, which gave me the kickoff I needed to fully understand all of the certification components. Working on the revision of Jump Start, I met some of the smartest people in the country.
The same year that I helped with the revision, I also began pursuing my own certification. I had the unique opportunity of going through the exact component of Jump Start that I helped revise. It was inspiring to see the impact of our work directly affect teachers and to feel it myself.
The process for board certification can be intimidating and there are a lot of moving parts. Jump Start broke things down so that I understood all of the essential pieces and how to meet the expectations. The National Board process itself was incredibly rewarding and reflective. It forced me to look closely at my practice, to celebrate my strengths as well as reflect on my challenges as I continue to grow and learn. I would not be a Nationally Board Certified Teacher without the support of my union.
Teachers often worry about taking on one more thing, meeting the increasing demands of our profession, or the many challenges we face. If you are not sure you can be a teacher leader, here’s my advice: Jump in! Become the teacher leader that your students need. Use the supports provided by your union and keep your mind open. While the results may not be instantaneous, the path to teacher leadership is fulfilling and ultimately benefits students.
My union has been right beside me the entire time. I now proudly, and confidently, call myself an NBCT and a teacher leader.