After more than 20 years in the classroom and a few credentials and a master’s degree along the way, Lodi third-grade teacher Lori Celiz was looking for a new challenge when she learned about National Board Certification (NBC).
The rigorous multiyear process proved to be just the thing to reawaken Celiz’s lifelong love of the teaching profession.
“It’s a passion for me. This is totally different than anything I’ve ever done,” Celiz says.
It’s also a heck of a lot of work, requiring an intensive process of standards-based performance assessment by NBC evaluators and peer review.
Created by teachers for teachers, National Board Certification is the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education. It was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers, as well as generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide. The rigor of certification has been compared to that of certification for the medical and legal professions.
Celiz spent three years and some $2,400 to complete the certification process in literacy in 2016. She explains that “a lot of life” happened along the way, including participation in the Instructional Leadership Corps (CTA’s partnership with Stanford University’s Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the National Board Resource Center), earning her administration credential, and caring for an ill child.
For certification, she was required to submit four portfolio entries and a video of her classroom teaching, and to complete six essay questions at a testing center.
“Each component focused on a particular aspect of literacy,” she says. “Writing, reading, listening and speaking, and the fourth focused on professional development.”
“It’s very personal,” she adds, “because you are looking at your own practice. Motivation has to come from within. Most of my work was done between 9 p.m. and midnight, when it was quiet and I could think deeply.”
Certification benefits students
Celiz has seen how National Board Certification benefits students.
“It greatly impacts student learning, because looking at teaching through a reflective lens helps us become better teachers. If we don’t have a positive impact, why do it?”
She cites more than a decade of research that students taught by board-certified teachers learn more than students taught by other teachers, on the order of an additional one to two months of instruction. Studies point to an even more positive impact on minority and low-income students. (See research at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, nbpts.org.)
Her Lodi Education Association (LEA) colleague Kristi Arredondo, who is going through the NBC process, agrees.
“The more I reflect on my teaching, the better teacher I will be,” she says. “I was teaching for 20 years, and instead of burning out, I said, ‘What can I do?’ Everyone should always be interested in growing in their profession.”
Certification also benefits educators. Under LEA President Michelle Orgon’s leadership, LEA recently bargained a $2,000-a-year stipend for members who obtain certification. Lodi educators are not unique in bargaining such stipends. Several chapters around the state have contract language awarding board-certified members.
“Through attrition and changes, we had only two NBC teachers left in our district,” Orgon says. “We want to facilitate as much as we can toward getting more teachers board-certified.”
Nevertheless, bargaining stipends for certification “was a hard-fought battle,” Orgon says. At a time when districts might be considering buying an online or off-the-shelf professional development program, Orgon maintains it’s important to recognize that teachers learn in different ways. Not only did the school board and LEA members have to be educated about the value of certification, the district had to give LEA more control over professional development.
“I don’t think they knew what [certification] was and what it takes,” Celiz says. “Most of our teachers didn’t even know what it meant.”
Jump Start to certification
National Board Certification has become such a passion for Celiz that she is now a trainer in Jump Start, which CTA offers in partnership with NEA. The three-day workshop prepares CTA members to embark on the NBC process. Celiz and Arredondo participated in Jump Start in San Diego last summer, and Celiz introduced it to 20 LEA members at a training in the fall.
“Jump Start goes through each of the components of the certification process and breaks it down,” says Arredondo. “If you go on the NBC website, it can be daunting. Jump Start gives you a solid idea of ‘This is where I need to go.’ If you don’t understand the process, it would be easy to give up.”
“Jump Start was designed to be a three-day training,” Celiz says. “We did a 4-8 p.m. after-school training and then two Saturdays. On the first day, [we covered] foundations and what board certification is; and then the two other days, we looked at each component.”
Celiz has since been selected as part of an NEA Jump Start Advisory Team, about 15 to 20 teacher leaders from different NEA affiliates around the country. The team redesigned Jump Start to match the new National Board process, which was revised in 2013 to condense the assessment process into four modules. (The first teachers to complete the revised process are expected to be certified this year.) It is now focusing on Jump Start as a professional issues engagement strategy.
For more information about National Board Certification, see nbpts.org.
Jump Start is CTA’s program for teachers interested in becoming a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT). The 2½-day seminar is free to members and provides important information about the certification process in a supportive environment, facilitated by experienced NBCTs. You will leave with a clear understanding of the process and a plan of action for completion. 2018 dates: June 18-20 in the Sacramento area (click here to register for the Sacramento event) and June 25-27 in San Diego (Click here to register for the San Diego event). Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Reflections on Becoming Board-Certified
By 2025, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards expects 1 million teachers to earn National Board Certification status, further improving student achievement across the country and elevating the teaching profession along the way.
It’s a lofty goal, but with recent changes that include lowering fees and allowing more time to complete the process, the board is hopeful more teachers will participate. Specifically, the board decreased the fees from $2,500 to $1,950 and now allows up to three years to submit all four components, and an additional two years if retakes are necessary.
“It’s a game changer in that it matches up more to personal lives of teachers,” says Linda Bauld, director of the National Board Resource Center, which provides support for teachers pursuing certification. “We are already seeing greater enrollment throughout the nation.”
“ It’s not that NBCTs are better than other teachers. It’s about teachers doing their best for their students.” — Linda Bauld, National Board Resource Center
More than 112,000 teachers across the United States are board-certified, and almost 20,000 are currently going through the process.
In December, thousands more teachers received certification nationwide. Among them was Tedra Matthews, a literacy coach at Monroe Elementary School in San Francisco and United Educators of San Francisco member.
“It was the best professional learning experience of my career,” she says.
With the support of her school district, Matthews was part of a National Board Support Network in which National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) serve as professional learning facilitators.
Within the district, NBCTs led site-based professional development that included hosting lab classrooms to help newer teachers see evidence of accomplished teaching in practice. Reflecting on teaching is a key aspect of the process, Matthews says.
“Teaching is not magic. It’s making purposeful decisions and reflecting on them to improve your practice.”
Matthews decided to go through the process when she was teaching at a charter school that didn’t offer much in the way of professional development.
“I was feeling at a dead end and wanted to submit my practice to a higher level of professional learning,” she says. “There is a lot of research that teachers who continue to grow professionally are less likely to burn out.”
With certification, Matthews can expect to see an increase of $5,000 above her regular salary.
Bauld says the state’s Professional Teaching Standards are patterned after the NBC process, so it complements and enhances what teachers should be doing in the classroom. “It’s not that NBCTs are better than other teachers. It’s about teachers doing their best for their students,” Bauld says.