Was Becoming a National Board Certified Teacher Worth it?

For those of you like myself who use YouTube as a search engine to answer queries, I put the ideas from this post into the video here:

I was thinking about becoming a National Board Certified teacher for days!

At first I couldn’t become a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) – for EXCEPTIONAL NEEDS – because I didn’t have enough years in the game.  I remember it was the summer between my second and third year of teaching and just to be sure, I called NBPTS and they told me I needed more time in the field.

Then I was working on my Masters for a few years after I got my credential, and that kept me busy up through my 6th year of teaching.

It was around that time I started Googling for tips and advice about the National Board process and didn’t find a lot. I did find this Cult of Pedagogy post that helped a bunch.  But there was so little info out there, that’s one reason I have written about.  Trying to get the info out there and demystify the process a little bit.

Finally I reached a point in 2015 where I was ready to embark on the process.  I paid for Component 1 in July 2015, printed out the standards (sorry! I’m old school and wanted to make sure I studied the best possible) annotated them, created a study plan (outlined in this blog post).

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Submitted Component 2 and 3 in May of 2016.

Took Component 1 at the test center in June.

Then the next spring finally finished up Component 4 and had the long wait from May until ……….. December!

After years of the idea of becoming an NBCT floating through my mind….and now being an NBCT for the past 3 years and going through the MOC (recertification process)…was it worth it?

 

I didn’t pursue the Exceptional Needs NBCT for the Money

I was already teaching internationally for several years when I was ready to start the NBCT process, and no international schools paid for you to get it, nor gave you a pay bump.  So I was out of pocket, and saw no foreseeable monetary benefit as I was 5 years into teaching international and didn’t see that stopping any time soon.

So it wasn’t worth it in that financial perspective at the time.  But in the US there are a lot of perks with stipends, different pay scales, etc. So now I’m back in the States after 10 years teaching internationally (Covid’s tentacles affected my school in Bali big time), it will pan out in that way as there is a separate pay scale for NBCTs at the school I’m looking at which is super cool!

I’m really glad the district values us.

But that’s not why I did it. 

At the end of the day I did it more to see if I was a good teacher in other people’s eyes…

….I felt stronger as a teacher every year, and I got great evaluations and heard good things from my peers, but I really wanted to get that outside perspective, especially since I heard the pass rate for earning the cert on the first time was pretty low ….so challenge accepted!

 

Does being an NBCT help you Professionally?

After having now been a National Board Certified Teacher in Exceptional Needs for three years I can list several ways that having achieved this status has added to things professionally for me:

1. Virtual PLNs (i.e. Twitter, blogging, CEC forum (LINK to forum)

People reach out to you on that NBCT connection and that’s cool.  Side bar convos in a Twitter chat or Zoom meeting, personal comments/emails in a forum, and DM’s, have opened me up to some educators I may not have known otherwise.

2. The NBCT Network

I am looking to join a school district in the States soon after being abroad since I certified and they have a network that I can’t wait to join after so long of not being able to access networks abroad.

Being part of the National Board Teacher network is great because it allows to:

  • mentor new teachers
  • be involved with district personnel at a deeper level
  • be a part of trainings
  • and just overall be more involved in your district which is cool

When I was out in Ethiopia and Mexico and Bali I would hear about different network groups, or see opportunities for people in certain states and it always made me look forward to coming back so I could partake in some of these things!

3) Accomplished California Teachers Conference

I was part of this conference this summer and it was a great opportunity to network with NBCT peers and people from the county offices of ed, the state, etc. and talk about issues of equity, advocacy, and more. 

I slid into this conference based on emails I began receiving from NBPTS and others once I earned the Exceptional Needs certification.  I get various emails from them, saw this opportunity not knowing what to expect, and came away with several takeaways.  I look forward to joining again next year.

4) A lot of people see board certification as really next level

Picture of Beckett Haight in high school, and then as a teacher in a yearbook photo. Comedy option!
It took me a minute

Not too long ago I was hanging out with my friend and her neighbor who used to be a PE teacher/athletic director.  When I mentioned National Board status my non-teaching friend asked what it is.

I did my best at explaining it, gave the board-certified surgeon analogy, but essentially fell short as ‘my colleague’ jumped in and exalted the NBCT status. She waxed poetic as she said how hard it is, and how not too many people get it and all that, and made me feel good to know that she was thinking this and that my friend maybe looked at me with a little more respect…

That’s nice!  As teachers we don’t always get a ton of esteem from our society.  And having taught internationally I have seen it even worse as some parents will treat us as part of their team of body guards, drivers, maids, cooks, etc. (as opposed to the professionals who spent thousands of dollars, years of college, and continued professional development to do what we do)….but yeah when people are giving you big ups for something you accomplished, that’s what’s up!

So…… at the end of the day I can’t say I got a job because of my NBCT status specifically, or was specifically asked to speak at a conference or do a podcast or something because of it.  Or that because of my NBCT status I can point to how I was able to help more teachers and programs  (and subsequently more students) and help promote best practices at a greater scale and what not.  But overall I like the extra possibilities it lends you in the field of education and at the end of the day I may never know the true extent of how it has afforded me the opportunity to help more people, but hopefully it has or will.

Did the National Board Certification process make me a Better Teacher?)

But most importantly….did I become a better teacher because of the NBCT process? That’s what people talk about as being a key part of why they often do the process. This is a yearbook picture of Beckett Haight at his first international school where he was providing learning support

And to be honest, I went into this process more trying to see if I was a good teacher more than trying to get better.

I saw it as a challenge to submit my components…. and wait.   See what the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards had to say.

The Different Components

With Component 1 for the Exceptional Needs Specialists I read and annotated all the standards, and did study a bit on aspects of standards I wasn’t 100 on.  However, I treated it like I’ve approached the (many!) teacher tests I have had to take over the years; take the test, see how you do, and study for the areas you did low on for the re-test.

I should say that component 1 was strong for me though, my highest score, but Component 2 and 3 dropped just enough to where I had to step my game up a little more for Component 4 in order to not fool around.  I do have ADHD, and apparently according to Dr. Ned Hallowell, ADHD can lead to us being risk-takers, but this wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.

But in looking back at my Component 2 and 3 teaching units I was working on that were submitted to NBPTS for, these actually became exemplary units for me to this day.  Units  that I look back to as sort of templates for some of the things I do in the resource room with the students receiving Learning Support.

And in the end, I think Component 4, the collaboration part did push me to step it up a bit too. 

For example, I remember getting more into Google Forms and the data provided and having a meeting with the tech coach about it.  In fact I still have those skills to this day and use them for progress monitoring and things like that

Additionally

Also, in retrospect I would say that having the “validation” of passing all the components  has encouraged me to keep doing everything I was doing at that time.  Not to say that I wouldn’t in a normal situation, but I guess if you are just doing your thing over the years you don’t think about exactly what you’re doing.  You’re not always reflecting and seeing how what you’re doing positively affects the students you are working with.  You’re not writing 15 page commentaries about why it’s effective HAHA! etc.  But once you spent hours and hours reflecting on your practice during the NBCT process, videotaping it, editing what you wrote, it becomes your sort of…your….schema.  You know….it’s like, a more substantial part of you.

Similar to blogging and how that makes you a better teacher because you are thinking more about your practice, and doing research to make sure you are on the right track with what you are saying, etc. 

So the National Board cert process made me a more confident teacher, and a more confident mentor of teachers at my sites, and a more confident Learning Support Coordinator as I share ideas with teachers and admin, work with parents on big decisions, etc.

Lastly I would say that the MOC (Maintenance of Certification), the new recertification process, is going to really help me get better too because I need to do/track the PGEs I do (Professional Growth Experiences?) and show how I’m using them in the classroom.   Essentially I need to show how I continue to strive to be a better teacher as the years go on.

This is the type of stuff I have been always saying about PD and how sometimes we go to PD, but don’t always use it when we come back.  All the good intentions while rapping with people during lunch breaks gets subsumed by the daily flow once we come back to school.  But now this MOC process is making me really think about it and I have this next school year to deeply look at all my professional learning opportunities I’ve had of late and how they end up in my practice.

….and if they aren’t so much, or not enough that I would submit them to NBPTS (!), then I need to step my game up this year.

 

So was it worth it to become an NBCT?

Was it worth it? Yes

Are there any regrets?  No

I’m happy I went through the process.

And being real, I’m looking forward to perhaps earning more money in the future based off the recognition of this process and what it says about where we are at as educators.  And more importantly I hope to be more involved in increased mentoring and various things at the schoolwide and district level because of this NBCT status.

All told, I’m proud to say that I’m Nationally Board Certified in the area of Exceptional Needs. In the field of Special Education where schools often are hiring interns without credentials, and people don’t stay in the field for very long, and all that, I’m happy to have dedicated myself to this Special Education profession in such a way. 

I have my credential, and my Masters in Special Education….and I went one step further and really wanted to get down, and I guess that’s why I’m proud.

Next step is either:

a) get a Special Education related tattoo or,

b) get an Ed.D, or PhD

c)…oh yeah, I start the MOC, Maintenance of Certification, recertification process this Fall.  Wish me luck!


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