Is This the Year to Start NBCT?

Susan Collins National Board Certification, Teacher Leadership

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Is this the year to start your National Board journey?

It’s a challenging year already. Do I want to take on more?
GREAT questions that need significant time to ponder. I would also suggest finding a thought partner (or two) to explore the topic with you.
This could be a great year to begin the journey. You’re already reinventing the way you get to know your students, deliver content, and assess knowledge. That gives you A LOT to write about!
My journey to National Board Certification was a bit bumpy. In the following piece, originally published on the blog, I share my journey.

I wanted to love teaching. I wanted to be creative and enjoy watching my students learn. I had hit mid-career burnout, and I hated it! I needed to find my purpose and passion again. Was it possible?
I knew about the National Board Certification process. Colleagues told me how it changed their teaching, and they encouraged me to investigate. I wanted to be a better teacher but didn’t want another degree. I wanted to dig deep into what I do and make it better.
I became a National Board Teacher Candidate.
I worked tirelessly: writing commentary, video recording my teaching, studying for a written test, plus keeping up with active kids, and full time teaching responsibilities. There was a lot of schedule juggling, asking for help, meetings with a mentoring group, and late nights editing and revising. Finally, everything was submitted.
I felt good about what I submitted. I was confident that I put my best work out there. I waited for the scores to be posted and dreamed of how the increase in salary would help my family.
When I logged in to see my score, I read, “We regret…” I sat there and cried. I finally got up, found a cup of coffee, and turned on the morning news. I just sat there, not absorbing anything. Then the phone rang.
My mom was calling. I took a deep breath and said, “Hello.”
She knew right away that I was not happy with my score. She let me be disappointed for a few minutes. Then she said, “Decide how long you’re going to feel sorry for yourself, then get on with your day.”
I don’t remember what I did the rest of that day, but I didn’t wallow in my disappointment. I talk with fellow candidates. My friend and coworker, Cathy, had not certified. Neither of us knew what we were going to do; we were just trying to process the fact that what we had put forth as our BEST was not good enough.
Over the next weeks, I debated my decision. I went from being completely defeated and ready to quit, to being determined to certify. It was quite the roller coaster ride! Just before the deadline to register for retake, I talked to Cathy. I wasn’t going to do it. Seventy-five points was too much.
Cathy sat back in her chair, and said “We are both going to retake. And this is why: in 10 years it WILL matter. It will matter to your certification, to your salary, to your retirement, and most importantly to how you see yourself as a teacher.”
That day, I started on a plan to retake specific components. I did my retakes over the next two years. The first year, I retook one classroom component and raised my score by 48 points. More than half of what I needed to certify. The second year I retook one assessment center exercise, and my professional accomplishment portfolio entry.
I needed the failure. I needed that length of process.
I needed to look at my BEST practices, completely break them down, and figure out what was essential in them.

When the last retake was submitted, I knew that I had changed. I now knew why I stayed in teaching. I love watching kids learn and discovering their power to learn for themselves.

I knew what I needed to stay away from burnout. I had to reach out to other teachers, be vulnerable, ask for help, and accept redirection. I had to look at my success and say, “That was great! How can I make it even better?”

When the scores were released, I was initially confused. What was wrong with the website? That didn’t look right? I’d never seen that screen before.

Then I scrolled down and in HUGE letters it said, “Congratulations, NBCT!”


What are your plans for THRIVING and not just surviving the 20-21 school year?



Susan Collins began her teaching career in 1991 in rural Mississippi. She served in 4 different communities in central and north Mississippi as a music educator, mostly elementary general music with one year as a middle school band director. She stepped out of working full-time in the classroom for 9 years when her children were very young but never left teaching. She set up an early childhood music studio and taught music from birth to age 5 (with an adult caregiver). Susan moved to Kingman in northwest rural Arizona in 2016 where she teaches k-5 general music. Susan achieved National Board Certification in the fall of 2016, just after moving to Arizona. She has served as a 2017-18 Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow and a Candidate Support Provider for National Board Candidates. She is passionate about advocating for the needs of rural schools and ensuring that every student receives an excellent education. When she is not teaching, advocating, or writing about education issues, she is outdoors hiking, reading, and going to musical performances. She can often be found off the grid pondering her next writing piece!

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