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Part 1: Becoming a Candidate {National Board Certification Series}

Last week I completed my journey towards National Board Certification… for now at least! I will not find out my results until November, so my fingers are crossed that I will pass on the first try. If I don’t, then I have to get right back to work! In the meantime, I wanted to share my journey with you. I’ve decided to write a National Board Certification Series that will include Becoming a Candidate (this post), Where do I start?, Staying on Track, and The Assessment Center. If you are a current candidate or thinking of applying for National Board Certification, I hope my experiences will help you along the way!

Why did I decide to try for National Board Certification?

I received both my B.S. and M.Ed. from Auburn University and I began my teaching career in Auburn City Schools {ACS} in 2005. ACS has a high number of National Board Certified Teachers {NBCTs} and having worked alongside many of them I knew that National Board Certification {NB} would be something that I would one day want to achieve. At the time, I knew very little about what was expected for certification, and after moving to Georgia and moving schools several times, I did not look into it again until 2011.

I was finishing up my 6th year of teaching, after having been transferred to a school with a wonderful and supportive administration and faculty. I began reading more and more about the requirements and when my principal confirmed that I would be teaching 1st grade (my favorite!), I decided to go for it!

Eligibility Requirements

Before you become a candidate for National Board Certification, you must first make sure you are eligible. You must hold a bachelor’s degree, have completed 3 full years of teaching, and hold a valid state teaching license for those years of experience. For full eligibility requirements including the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards {NBPTS} policies and ethics guidelines, click here. You can also review the Eligibility Verification Forms and Instructions packet by clicking on the picture below.

Choosing a Certificate Area

After you have met all of the eligibility requirements, you must choose a certificate area. This certificate area is the National Board Certification program that you will complete. Give this some thought! Do you want to receive a generalist certificate or one that is subject-specific? I opted for the Generalist certificate in Early Childhood {EC-GEN}. This certificate covers ages 3-8. The NBPTS has 25 certificates available in 16 different subject areas. Think about your teaching practice and which certificate area might fit you best. To see all 25 certificates available, click here.

Resources… What is available in your area?

Resources for National Board Certification vary from state to state and from district to district. What is offered in your area might not be offered elsewhere. National Board Certification comes with fees, but check with your state about possible scholarships. I was able to have my state pay a portion of my fee, which helped out tremendously! Click here for information on fee assistance and scholarships and click here for information by state. Be sure to research these resources early, as many of them have limited funds available.

After you have researched what your state has to offer, get in touch with local universities, your professional organization, district leaders, and administration. There are many universities that provide jump-start classes or cohorts for candidates. Some school districts offer incentives such as a salary increase for achieving, or professional days for portfolio work. My state and district did not provide these resources, however, I have a VERY supportive principal. She graciously offered me 2 professional days to stay home and work on my portfolio. Don’t be afraid to ask… all you can be told is no!

I also located a wonderful ONLINE resource that helped me through my entire journey… The Power of Accomplished Teaching. I found this website and immediately joined. It is $35 for a year, but worth FAR more than that small fee. This website include forums for all entries (EC-GEN, MC-GEN, and EC/MC Literacy). NBCTs are there to help guide you through your portfolio entries and the assessment center process. The live chat room helps provide a cohort feel as you meet other candidates and provide support for one another along the way. I would suggest joining this site, even if you have local candidate support! I ended up forming my own cohort with other candidates from Arkansas, California, Arizona, and Tennessee! We became a support system for one another and encouraged each other along the way.

Knowing What Is Expected

After you have determined that you are eligible, have sought out resources available to you, and chosen a certificate area, take some time to review your portfolio entries and expectations. All candidates must submit 4 portfolio entries – with the 4th entry being the same for all certificate areas {accomplishments outside of the classroom}. Candidate cycles begin on April 1st of each year with the portfolio being due on March 31st. Most candidates wait until after the portfolio is sent off to begin preparing for the Assessment Center. First-time candidates have until June 15th to complete the 6 Assessment Center exercises. You can click here to download your certificate area’s standards, portfolio directions, scoring guides, and Assessment at a Glance to see what type of entries your portfolio would include. There is also a Take One option available if you are undecided about taking on the whole process of NB.

You will want to take some time and talk with your family about the NB process. Constructing your portfolio requires a lot of time, effort, and dedication. Talk to your spouse and/or children about why you want to pursue NB. Work out a schedule so that every week you have uninterrupted time to work on your portfolio and study for the Assessment Center.

Becoming an Official Candidate

Once you feel that you are ready to take on the journey of National Board Certification, you must apply for candidacy. You can click here to go to the NBPTS application page. After you apply and pay the initial fees, you can begin getting your eligibility forms together and wait for The Box to arrive in the mail!

If you decide to take on this journey, I promise that it will be one you will never forget. I did NB to grow in my teaching career and to make myself a better teacher for my students. Along the way I would always get asked, “What do you get for it?” (I was asked this a lot because my state took away funding/incentives for NB).

What I get is the best professional development available to teachers, the understanding that my teaching practice is not perfect and that it can always be improved, new knowledge in how to teach my students based on the Unifying Concepts of Science, a new way to look at integrating curriculum within my classroom, more ways to interact with my students, new ways to communicate with the parents of the students in my class, new ways to include the community in my teaching, understanding of why I make the choices that I do for my students, collaboration with colleagues across the United States, and the ability to push myself and create my own growth within my own teaching practice. That is what I get…. and to me that is priceless!

The above suggestions are my own and are only what I have found to be helpful during my journey. Please do not rely on these suggestions/resources alone! Complete your own research and always do what works best for you and your teaching practice. Materials © 2012 National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. All rights reserved.

Next in this series: “Where do I start?”

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