June 2011 Issue
June 01, 2011

National Board Certification not an endpoint — it's a beginning

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Schenectady teachers celebrate earning National Board Certification. Photo by Katherine Van Acker.

Achieving National Board Certification is a huge professional milestone, but NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira urged National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) from the Capital Region to answer the calling for another title: teacher leader.

"National Board Certification is not an endpoint — hopefully it's the beginning for each one of you to take the lead in making a difference," Neira said at a celebration honoring more than 220 "master teachers" from nearly 50 Capital Region school districts. "You can't wait for someone to ask you, 'Come and tell me what you think.' You have to step up and lead in your own way."

Teacher leadership can take many different forms, said keynote speaker Ellen Holmes, a National Board Certified Teacher from Maine who works for the National Education Association's Priority Schools campaign. Holmes asked the audience members to close their eyes and picture a teacher leader, then share their vision with a neighbor.

"I bet the person's name would be different," Holmes said. "We all have a different notion of teacher leadership ... Teacher leaders don't come in one size or one definition."

Holmes urged NBCTs to take the time to ask themselves "What's next?" She offered a long list of possible leadership roles for NBCTs: mentor, lead teacher, coach, team leader, department head, quasi-administrators. But it doesn't have to be a new job title, Holmes stressed. She invited NBCTs to help the colleague who never comes out of her room, or another who might be thinking about pursuing National Board Certification.

A leader "might be the person who recognizes a flaw in the testing system, where standards and assessments don't match the curriculum, or the working conditions are not in place, and you facilitate change," she said. "You could engage colleagues, use collective strength to ask questions and create collaborating agendas."

Another teacher leader might "become the campfire that people gather around" to get inspiration or ideas. Others might work on ways to increase parent involvement, improve professional development or engage the community. "That's the power of day-to-day teacher leadership," Holmes said. "It's up to you."

State Education Department Senior Deputy John King, who will become commissioner next month, urged the NBCTs to be a valuable resource as the state moves forward with a number of education reform initiatives. He said the national board model of self-reflection and professional development can be used to improve teacher evaluation and teacher prep.

"We have a lot to learn from the national board process," King said. "We're talking about a teacher preparation process that looks very much like the NBCT process — more clinically rich, more reflective, using video for professional growth and replacing pen and paper assessments."

Annette Romano, coordinator of the National Board Council of New York State Network, encouraged NBCT's to pursue renewal as a way to demonstrate how they have continued to evolve since achieving National Board Certification — and how it has helped their students. (National Board Certification is valid for 10 years.) She also urged NBCTs to attend candidate support provider training and collaborate with higher education institutions.

"When you decided to pursue National Board Certification, you stepped up to the challenge and demonstrated good teaching," Neira said. "Now we're asking you to broaden that vision and reflect on how you will make the difference. That's what teacher leadership is all about."