Four Little Letters: NBCT

Leah Clark National Board Certification

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Four little letters: NBCT. Four letters that have come to mean so much to me. Four letters recently added to my name: NBCT.

Three years ago, I decided to start the National Board Certification process. I knew two NBCTs, and everything they told me about their experience resonated with me. They encouraged me to learn more about the program. So, I eagerly took a precandidacy class at the Arizona K12 Center and learned about the five core propositions, the four components, and the journey I was about to begin.

This rigorous program pushes teachers to evaluate every part of the teaching and learning process, and I loved it!

I know. I sound like someone who can’t drink enough of the NBCT Kool-Aid. However, NBCT isn’t some magical potion that creates perfect teachers; it’s a process that allows teachers the opportunity to look at their classroom in a way that positively impacts their students’ learning.

After pressing the submit button on each component, I reflected on the impact it made on me as a teacher. Every component left a profound impression, and I am excited to share my advice with anyone considering National Board Certification.

  • Trust the Process. I often said this phrase during sorority recruitment in college to potential new members. It means that things will end up exactly as they should. The recruitment process places women exactly where they are meant to be. It may seem unclear at the beginning, but in the end, it all works out. This mantra is the same for NBCT. NBCT is not easy. At times, it can feel confusing and frustrating. During my first component, I rewrote my entire submission one month before the due date. After rereading the directions and standards for what felt like one-millionth time, suddenly, I looked at the component with new clarity and understanding. I scrapped my original writing and started again. Let me say this: this is part of the process. Trust the process. Writing, rewriting, editing more times than you can count, this is all part of the process. The process requires candidates to put their teaching under a microscope and look at each molecule. This takes time, patience, and trust.
  • Time is Your Friend. I respect every teacher who completes this process in one year. Wow! That is an incredible accomplishment. However, ff you are considering NBCT, take as much time as you need. I planned to complete the process in two years, submitting two components each year. However, life happened and I decided to take three years. (An infant made it slightly more challenging to manage). This is not a race. Everyone is on their own journey, their own path. Take as much time as allowed and needed.
  • Be Vulnerable. NBCT requires you to take a really close look at yourself. I mean really close. So close it can feel uncomfortable at times. However, this is what makes this process so valuable. By looking at every decision you make as a teacher with a magnifying glass, you are able to grow. This process peels back layers much like peeling back an onion. Every layer reveals something unique about you, your students, and your classroom. This requires candidates to put themselves out there in a way they have never done before. Vulnerability is a must.

Watching the fireworks flash across my screen was one of the best moments of my life. It’s right up there with my wedding and the birth of my son. That may seem hyperbolic. It’s not, I promise. The way a marriage or the birth of a child can change one’s personal life is similar to the way the NBCT experience impacts one’s professional life. Four little letters have the power to change your life. I know it did for me.

If you are certified or are in the process, what advice would you give to someone thinking of pursuing NBCT? Leave a comment below.


Leah Clark

Phoenix, Arizona

I joined the teaching profession after spending several years in luxury retail. While the free clothes and handbags were definite job perks, I felt burned out and tired of long hours, weekends and holidays. So, I went back to school to become a teacher and have never looked back. I love my job!
My teaching philosophy is simple: Do what’s best for kids. While it’s not eloquent, this humble phrase directs every decision I make about teaching and students. As a Language Arts teacher at a central Phoenix high school, it’s my honor and passion to create opportunities for students to communicate, collaborate, create and connect with one another and the world around them.
When I am not grading a stack of essays, planning a new lesson, or chaperoning a school dance, I love riding my yellow Huffy bicycle around town, sampling a new restaurant, and traveling to Flagstaff with my husband.

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Comments 3

  1. Caitlin Gawlowski

    Congratulations on becoming an NBCT! I think you hit the nail on the head with the three suggestions you offered, although they may not be easy to follow at times. I think that it can be hard to trust the process when you’re in the middle of it, but once you come out the other side things start to make more sense. In addition, being vulnerable is not something that comes easily to many but it is so important. The suggestion I have for candidates pursuing the process is to seek feedback often and early on in the process. Find a coach with who you feel a good connection and who asked the right questions that sparked reflective thought and seek them out frequently. You want to give yourself enough time to process the feedback and deeply reflect, and then figure out the adjustments you should make to your components, which takes time if you want to do it right. Don’t be afraid of cognitive coaching, and don’t be afraid of having someone read your work!

    1. Leah Clark

      I 100% agree with finding a coach. I had several very amazing friends and colleagues who supported me throughout the process. They read, reread, and reread again for me. They cheered me on when I wanted to quit. And they celebrated my successes. I owe them a great deal!

  2. Susan Collins

    I love the idea of “trust the process.” Going through the process can feel like being in a dark tunnel. Put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing. Certifying changed my professional life in so many ways: in the classroom, in my district, on a state and national level. Most importantly to me is that it gave me a humble confidence in my own ability.

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