Certification Was Pivotal Point in Her Career
Find Out More About National Board Certified Teacher Linda Edwards
NEA member Linda Edwards, a National Board Certified teacher, answers questions about the certification process and how it has affected her practice.
Linda Edwards, an elementary and middle school teacher for 25 years in Lewistown, Montana, is the first National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) to join an association staff. She is currently the director of Teaching and Learning for the Colorado Education Association, where she coordinates the program on National Board Certification.
Here is how Edwards described her experience with the National Board Certification process.
What was the National Board Certification (NBC) experience like?
The NBC process was like nothing I had ever experienced in my teaching career. I both loved and hated the constant self-questioning and re-evaluating.
The process includes a series of questions that help you demonstrate your practices, your theories about how students learn, and the ways you monitor student learning of required content. The questions also help you analyze and re-evaluate your teaching (which often leads to an unexpected revision of teaching methods).
The process is like a roller coaster ride. You soar at the top when an entry is completed. You've given it your all for that content area and you're ready to tackle the next entry. Then you scream all the way down the track as the analysis, reflection, and lesson design start all over again.
Yet, it's the best professional development process I have ever undertaken. It directly impacted my instruction and how I analyze student growth and it caused me to add reflection to every part of the instructional day.
Why did you pursue National Board Certification?
I wanted to validate the educational practices I used in my classroom. I was confident in the decisions I'd made based on my own action research and now I wanted to put my professional judgments to the tests of the National Board.
Also, as a member of the Governor’s Education Task Force encouraging teachers to go through a national certification process, I knew I could better fulfill this commitment by undergoing the certification process myself.
And, it offered a way for me to highlight the importance of National Board Certification within my peer group -- teachers with many years of experience.
Did the process impact your teaching? Impact anything else?
The process confirmed that my theories and practices were aligned with national standards, and it helped me understand three things:
- Why my methodologies were appropriate
- The rationale for why I did what I did
- How lessons must be changed to meet the emerging needs of my students.
My students were my partners in this process. They were fully aware that I was a learner as well as a teacher (They liked the idea that their teacher had homework!). Videotaping was their favorite part. They took the process as seriously as I did, and we bonded as equals in the learning process, as well as in classroom design.
This was the first time in 23 years of teaching that I had had to prepare a portfolio of my teaching practice in specific content areas as well as documented evidence of parental involvement and professional activities.
How has becoming an NBCT affected your Association leadership?
I hadn’t thought beyond receiving the results. My focus has always been to improve instruction. But achieving NBC proved to be a pivotal point in my professional life.
After attaining certification, I was often asked to help people in Montana and surrounding states get the certification process going in their districts. I came under some criticism from colleagues for my time spent out of the classroom, but the experiences helped push me toward the next step in my career.
It was important for me to demonstrate how the National Board process makes teachers better at their craft, and thereby improves our profession. And I wanted to help expand the program.
As a trained facilitator for NBC, I was able to continue my close involvement in the process and assist other NBCT candidates. As the candidates questioned, analyzed, and refined their teaching practices, I continued to refine my own teaching skills and further my own professional development.
It was as an NBC facilitator that the career change evolved. I had taught for 25 years, was working on my Administrative endorsement, and loved working with colleagues on professional development. While working with a neighboring state’s first group of NBC candidates, I met the director of Professional Development. That generated a conversation and a thought process that led to an opportunity to continue the work for the national board process on a statewide effort.
While my first love has always been teaching, success with the NBC process has opened the door for my second love, helping teachers succeed in the classroom and as professionals. The Colorado Education Association’s focus on teaching and learning has enabled me to combine both loves. The professional development process continues.
What would you say to others about NBC?
If you are considering National Board Certification, I say, "Go for it!" It’s the best professional development opportunity that truly impacts classroom instruction.
I have met several teachers who missed certification on the first try, who smile from ear to ear when they talk about how much they learned as they refined their portfolios or geared up for the assessment exercises.
I recently talked with a young teacher who has mapped out a three-year plan to achieve certification, a time frame that makes sense given the demands on teacher time and other professional activities.
The question I’m asked the most regarding the NBC process is "Why should I?" To help them decide, teachers can use one of several checklists to assess their readiness for certification, but in my opinion, it’s really a matter of the heart.
I say to all teachers --
If you are committed to the profession and ready to measure your practices against national standards as a way to improve your craft, then National Board Certification is for you!
Linda Edwards is the director of Teacher and Learning at the Colorado Education Association (CEA), where she coordinates the CEA program on National Board Certification. Prior to joining CEA, Edwards taught elementary and middle school for 25 years in Lewistown School District #1 in Montana. During those years, she received numerous awards for teacher leadership and was selected Montana Teacher of the Year in 1993. She earned National Board Certification-Early Childhood Generalist in 1998.
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