Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Celebration of Accomplished Teaching to honor Arizona’s newest (and renewed) National Board Certified Teachers. Held at the stunning Chateau Luxe in Phoenix, teachers were greeted at sunset on the red carpet and then escorted to an evening of well-deserved recognition, praise, and inspiration.
The evening was best symbolized by the massive chandelier that dominates the Grand Entrance. Aptly named the Unity Chandelier, “it’s composed of 605 individual strands of Swarovski crystals that are interwoven into one stunning pinnacle, signifying harmony and unification”.
Like the chandelier, the brilliance of the evening can be attributed to the unique convening of diverse individuals who support teachers— individuals who know the importance of celebrating teachers who celebrate students. Furthermore, the event would have been entirely impossible without the generous support of members of the community, especially: the AEA, Arizona Public Service, the ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Expect More Arizona, Frame the Message Ink, Grand Canyon University, Helios Education Foundation, Northern Arizona University, Pearson, Salt River Project, Sauce Pizza and Wine, Tubac Golf Resort, University of Phoenix, the Westin La Paloma, and the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort. Live music was provided by the Greenfield Junior High School Jazz Band and table centerpieces by the students of Dysart High School.
For those who attended the event, I urge you to nurture your inspiration. Receiving your National Board certificate is so much more than just a dinner or a finish line; it is a commencement into the next stage of your profession. It is a renewed commitment to students and to yourself—to your ability to refine and reflect, to grow and to gain. I urge you to wear this “COAT” all year—to keep this feeling of accomplishment somewhere near so that you are both fueled and humbled by your success. Continue to grow and nurture professional friendships outside of your pedagogical, regional, and political domains. Seek to constantly learn and grow just as you advise your students.
For those who were unable to attend, I’ve included a highlight of the speeches that will fuel me forward. Most importantly, please know you were celebrated and admired even in your absence.
Kathy Wiebke, the Executive Director of the Arizona K12 Center, opened the event in her most important role: as a teacher. As only 1 of 45 teachers in the U.S. to recertify twice, Kathy admitted she “couldn’t even imagine that the path [she] paved would become worn”, but emphasized the importance of teachers as emissaries of their profession. She reminded teachers that there are “few professions that can produce hope as an outcome” and that we are ultimately “in charge of the narrative of our profession”.
Mary-Dean Barringer, Strategic Initiative Director of CCSSO and teacher extraordinaire, echoed and extended Dr. Wiebke’s sentiments, urging new NBCT’s to “challenge every teacher you know to tell a different story about the profession” and to “provide every student with an act of hope and learning”. Recognizing that Board Certification is an evidence-based application, she reminded us to keep using data, but to do so “with a disposition of wonder”—a wonder that helps us see and recognize students for who they are and how they can grow.
Amber Parker, Senior Vice President of Outreach and Engagement for the National Board, flew in from Washington D.C. to personally congratulate new NBCTs. She congratulated teachers for voluntarily putting their practice up for review against the highest set of standards that have ever been set for the profession.
Jeff Guldner of Arizona Public Service pushed his prepared speech aside and spoke from the heart about his gratitude for public school teachers, drawing on experiences with his teenage daughter, who is a student in the Chandler Unified School District. He then surprised every new NBCT with an envelope containing a $200 classroom scholarship!
Diane Douglas, Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, thanked teachers for the incredible time and effort they’ve invested in certification during a time when the teacher shortage is so extreme. She was excited to announce a proposed 5% raise for teachers and expressed regrets that state budget simply could not allow more. This was Superintendent Douglas’ first visit to CoAT. She had the opportunity to meet many Board-certified teachers. You have to believe that she walked away impressed.
Misha Freeman, the Co-President of the Arizona National Board Network ended the event with “Three Asks”: 1) join the Network and stay connected, 2) register for the Annual Arizona National Board Network Convening, and 3) Keep doing the good work that our kids deserve and need.