Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nationally Board Certified...and Proud!

Yesterday was Saturday.  It should have been my weekend day, my time away from teaching and my job....but instead I set my alarm for 6 am ready to spend a day at the Florida National Board Summit.  You see, back in 2009, Cheryl (my assistant principal) said to me, "Suzie, you need to go through National Board Certification.  It is the best experience you will have as a teacher."  Cheryl had gone through her National Board Certification several years before, and she seemed to see in me many of the same traits.  After a few conversations, I agreed this would be a great idea.  At that time, I only knew a little bit of what I was getting myself into.  I mean, I had already completed my Masters in Elementary Education in one year, and had been teaching for four years. I knew that I needed something to further myself as an educator, but before I talked to Cheryl, I wasn't sure exactly what that would be.  I was frustrated by the trainings offered in my district.  The trainings where I would sit for about 3 hours and listen to a great idea to implement.  The problem was, they were great ideas, but while sitting, I didn't feel as if I was improving my craft and making changes in my classroom.  So when I looked at the National Board website, I found an organization that I believed the process would change my teaching forever.  The day I decided to go for my National Board Certification is the start of where my life as a transformed educator truly began. 

I realized at the time that going through National Board Certification would be a time commitment, just wasnt sure exactly how much! I also knew it would be a monetary commitment, since it cost $2500 to receive this certification.  Thank goodness the state of Florida had a Dale Hickam Grant which would cover half of my expenses. An even bigger thank you goes to my parents who wanted to help support my dreams and ambitions and helped with the fees involved. I am forever grateful to have parents who have always believed in me and wanted me to reach every goal I have set for myself.  As the process began, I realized that going through National Board Certification would be my life for about six-nine months.  I would eat, breath, teach and work on my National Boards. Throughout that year there would be many sleepless nights, days when I thought my computer was attached to me, and fun times that everyone around me seemed to be enjoying while I would be working, writing, and thinking about my teaching.  I even had to take a season off of kickball, my favorite grown-up sport which I played year round since moving to Florida.  This was a huge sacrifice for me.  In some of those sleepless nights, I wanted to give up and go back to normal life.  But even more, I wanted to accomplish what I set my mind to, being a National Board Certified Teacher.

Planning my lessons, creating my units, integrating my curriculum and realizing my successes and even more importantly, focusing on my weaknesses I consistently worked to improve my instruction in the classroom.  It takes a reflective practitioner who is able to constantly reflect, change, and improve to be a National Board Certified Teacher.  What I learned during that year, is that teaching is always evolving and changing and I need to evolve and change with it.  I need to reflect on everything I do, think about what I did well, and what I can do better.  Then I need to make those changes.  I will never think I know how to do everything.   I can thank NBPTS for all of these lessons.  Which is one of the reasons why now, as education is changing and transforming, I am ready for the task and feeling confident in myself.  I know that I can learn and apply the Common Core State Standards, as I see the huge benefit in this shift in education.  I adapt to the needs of my students and differentiate my instruction to help my students achieve success daily. 

During the certification process, I could not have survived without the help of some really important people.  Cheryl Maggio, my inspiration for going through National Boards helped me every step of the way.  She read, read, and read my pages of writing and spent her free time helping me (and she had very little free time, so I cannot thank her enough). My mom, an amazing educator, whom I always aspired to be like, was just a phone call and computer away.  I was able to call her daily and bounce ideas and get support. She was a supporter, helper, friend and also an editor to all my work.  A co-worker, Stephenie, even volunteered her time to read my work and help me revise, and helped me tremendously as she was a fourth grade teacher and we buddied our classrooms together (2nd and 4th) for some of my activities.  She was always ready to support me when I needed it. There was even a weekend "Editing Party" where people came over to read and give suggestions before I sent off the box.  During that party, when I ran out of ink again and again, my sister Jenn was a life-saver who would run back and forth to her house and print more pages for me.  She helped so much by reading and giving the non-educator view on my work.  Every person involved, I am forever thankful for their support.  I will never forget the day I sent off my box, after checking it once-twice-three times...okay who am I kidding, I am pretty sure I checked through everything about 100 times before bringing it to the Post Office.  I felt as if I was sending my life away.  I cried, at the Post Office, feeling so silly that I couldn't control my emotions. But I knew that I was shipping off my blood, sweat, and tears for others to critique.  I knew I had to trust in the process.  When I went to do the writing portion of test, I had more confidence since I was only two years out of my Masters Comps and having taken the GRE and receiving the highest score of 6 on my writing, I had the confidence that I would be successful.  But then, the waiting game came and seemed to last forever.

It was amazing to me that the day finally came when I would find out my results.  And truthfully, the day it happened, I didn't even know it was happening until a co-worker said, "Did you look at your score? Did you pass?"  I was at school, and I couldn't believe the scores were ready.  I wanted to know, but I was so afraid that I would not pass.  They say that it can take three years to pass, and to be prepared for this.  So I walked up to my computer and put in my Candidate ID #.  I started to shake and the tears started flowing again, as I was waiting to see my results.  Time seemed to freeze as I finally arrived on the screen that said, "Congratulations, you are a National Board Certified Teacher."  I sat and stared and felt a combination of relief and jubuliance.  I was once again very emotional (okay, I am a girl, it happens to the best of us!).  I was beyond proud, and that is a moment I will never forget.  I knew that my life as an educator was forever changed. Not because of the certification, but because of the journey I took and the transformation of my teaching. 

That was in 2010, and I have since gone on with my teaching and made a lot of forward movement.  The next summer I went through the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project, and then last year worked through my application for the Donald H. Graves Excellence in Improvement of Student Writing.  I have always applied every strategy, especially the importance of reflection, which I learned through my National Board Certification process.  But I haven't been able to stay as active with other NBPTS certified teachers and I felt disconnected to other like-minded educators who went through the process just like me. 

So when I saw that there would be a Florida National Board Summit on Saturday, May 4th, I was very excited to sign up and be involved. I was very enthusiastic to see what this experience would be like.  And I found everything I was hoping for. I found other educators, passionate about teaching, learning and National Board Certification.  We had a great meeting, which is the first of many I hope.  What I will take with me as I move forward is, I should be proud to be a NBCT.  I need to add it to my signature line on my e-mail, on my business card, and I want to let other educators know how wonderful and transformative this organization is.  I realized ways I can advocate for education in a variety of ways.  I felt welcomed and secure in a place where teachers are talking about positive changes in education and ways that teachers can feel empowered.  I learned that parents have the most confidence in the teachers to make the educational policy, and our voice needs to be heard. These are things that I might have realized in the past, but I feel even stronger and more confident now.  I learned that we all have a story, the wonderful stories of the students we have impacted and how important it is to share those stories and believe in the difference that we make every day.

Even though I set my alarm for 6 am on a Saturday, I would do it again in a heartbeat to continue working with educators with visions and ideas for transforming education, the importance of our profession, and to help National Board Certification be something that every teacher strives for and works toward in their career. I want to make an impact in education and help make the changes to education which will change our students' lives of today and in the future!

I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, and I am Proud!!

A picture from Florida National Board Summit on May 4, 2013

My National Board Certificate

National Board Certified Teacher in Middle Childhood Generalist 2010
Tampa Bay Area Writing Project Teacher Consultant 2011/Leadership Council Member
Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing National Winner (NCTE)

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