National Board is No Secret Handshake Club

Jaime Festa-Daigle Uncategorized

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A few years back, a very good friend of mine won a highly regarded award for teaching. Another educational leader joked with me, “well of course she won, she’s an NBCT and you are all part of that secret handshake club.”  Although I was taken aback, I simply smiled politely. However, since then variations of this comment have come up time and time again. There is an underlying assumption that somehow National Board Teachers belong to some elusive club and do not want others to join – that in some way, National Board is just for the elite.  

These thoughts about National Board truly are depressing, as they fly in the face of accomplished teaching and go against the very core of what the National Board standards represent.  As a National Board Certified Teacher, I believe in the core propositions and that each and every teacher can and should embody them. These propositions are at the heart of my work and are a mantra not just for veteran teachers or for the best teachers, but a mantra for ALL teachers.

  1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
  5. Teachers are members of learning communities.

That’s it. I’ve just taught you the secret song.  And it is no secret. These are the components of quality teaching: plan, teach, reflect, repeat.  

So yes, there are also standards specific to one’s content area or specialization.  There are directions to follow when working toward certification, but at the core of every NBCT lie these propositions.  This is what allows us to speak easily about our practice across grades and subjects. Accomplished teaching practices exist in so many classrooms across the country; the certification is simply the vehicle to show a commitment to those practices.

When I earned my certification over a decade ago, I had no idea that I was committing to a learning journey about who I was as an educator that frankly hasn’t ended.  Every day I consider how to better meet the needs of the students and schools I serve. I reflect on what I did and what I need to do better. National Board opened my eyes to reflection.  I never knew what a valuable tool this would be.

I work with teachers across all spans of years of service and experience.  There are amazing teachers and teacher leaders that I work with who are simply not interested in board certification, and these teachers exemplify accomplished teaching.  One of the teachers I respect most in the world started pre-candidacy with me in 2006 and never chose to proceed with certification. Twelve years later, she decided the time was right for her.  Was she somehow excluded from the club for the past decade? Not at all. In fact, she taught me so much about how to be a better teacher. Am I thrilled to talk with her now about this process as she reflects about her own practice and growth, even at a stage in her career where she is a master at her craft? You bet I am.

One of the most corrosive things we can do to the profession is attack those who work to improve themselves and develop as teachers and leaders.  And sadly, we do it all the time. Collaboration is key to positive school culture and climate and there is no room for secret clubs that aren’t focused on using our own skills to improve our own teaching.  

And that is the beauty of National Board. It doesn’t require a doctorate or travel to a convention, it requires a commitment to yourself and your community and your classroom.  Accomplished teaching happens every day in classes taught by NBCTs and classes taught by non-NBCTs. It is time to talk quality teaching and growth that raises up all of us, rather than worry about the secret knock that doesn’t exist.  



Jaime Festa-Daigle

Phoenix, Arizona

My name is Jaime Festa-Daigle and I was born here in Arizona. I work as the director of personnel and technology at Lake Havasu Unified School District. I’ve worked in Lake Havasu teaching everything from 8th grade English to student council to college level government and economics. I was recognized as the American Civic Educator of the Year in 2012. I am fully focused on ensuring rural students have equal access to educational opportunities as their metropolitan counterparts.
I am an NBCT, Arizona Master Teacher, and an Arizona Rural Schools Association board member. During the small moments where I am not focused on how to make Lake Havasu High School the best school in Arizona, I am usually nerding out on politics, fretting about my teenaged children, or working up a sweat at Cross Fit.

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Comments 5

  1. Jess Ledbetter

    I really like how you have clearly articulated that quality teachers can be NBCTs as well as non-NBCTs. It’s so important that NBC doesn’t become an elite club that disconnects from others in the field–and I think you have articulated why an NBCT would never want to do that since we value collaboration. This quote really resonated with me: “The certification is simply the vehicle to show a commitment to those [quality teaching] practices.” That was totally true for me. I think it’s important for organizations to ensure all teachers have some familiarity with the NBC process even if they never plan to pursue. This breaks down the glass wall so everyone knows what it takes–and also might increase a culture of support for all Ts pursuing NBC.

    1. Jaime Festa-Daigle

      I totally agree. I have really learned over time the process is not exclusive. It builds all of us up. And knowledge of core propositions is good for kids. More and more teachers has certified as we have become more and more collaborative and open. All of us, always learning!

  2. Susan Collins

    I really like that you bring out the fact that many accomplished teachers simply choose to not go through the process of board certification. I had a conversation with a colleague yesterday where she was talking about her practice using the spirit of the 5 core propositions. She is not an NBCT, but she is absolutely and accomplished teacher. When you said, “One of the most corrosive things we can do to the profession is attack those who work to improve themselves and develop as teachers and leaders” I wanted to jump up and yell YES! I strive to build our profession and NBC is an avenue for doing that, but certainly not the only avenue!

  3. Rachel Perugini

    As someone going through the National Board process, I’ve really only seen welcoming and helpful attitudes from all the NBCT’s I’ve worked with. It’s a tough process, but they all want to help you be successful. All the coaches have gone out of their way to answer questions or read things in their free time. I’ve only felt support.

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