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A Great Adventure and the Chance of a Lifetime

Find Out More About NBC Teacher Katherine Wright Knight

Katherine Wright Knight NEA member Katherine Wright Knight, a National Board Certified teacher, answers questions about the certification process and how it has affected her practice.

Katherine Wright Knight is a secondary English teacher in Little Rock, Arkansas. And a mentor to student teachers from four institutions of higher education. And she currently serves as secretary-treasurer of Arkansas Education Association. An enthusiastic proponent of NBC, she was one of the first teachers in central Arkansas to earn certification in adolescent/young adult English language arts.

Here is how Knight described her experience with the National Board Certification process.

Why did you pursue National Board Certification (NBC)?
I had been aware of NBC for a number of years, and my interest increased as I waited for NBPTS to offer certification in my area (secondary English). When it became available, I was very excited. I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted to do more.

I tried hard to get several friends in my district, the Little Rock School District, to join me in my enthusiasm. I was only able to convince one, my kindergarten friend, Lou Ethel Nauden, that this was a great adventure and the chance of a lifetime. We could become better teachers and explore new possibilities. I have always enjoyed a challenge and it was very important to me professionally to become board certified.

What was the National Board Certification experience like?
It was an experience that I shall never forget. I learned so much about myself as a teacher and about what I was doing well and what areas needed strengthening. Discovery of one's own flaws is a true awakening.

I spent hours reading, writing, and revising. Making decisions about what instructional goals and lessons to focus on was most difficult. I am innovative in the classroom and had too much material from which to choose. I had been videotaping my students and myself for years, so selecting one video was difficult. Scrutinizing myself from video or audiotape was easy. Writing about it is not nearly as comfortable.

What were the high and low points? 
The lowest point was not making it the first time. Other low points were when people tried to discourage me.

I was sometimes disappointed in myself if I was unclear about what direction to take. I didn’t have anyone to collaborate with except my kindergarten friend. No one in my district, or even nearby, was board certified. I teach collaboration and the Slavin Model of Cooperative Learning. I couldn’t cooperate or collaborate. I had to be my own critic.  

Was it worth it?
Absolutely! It means a great deal to me professionally and personally. I would do it again. There were some unexpected challenges in my field -- the long reading lists, the study of opera, art, and photography. I now see Carmen differently. I recognize Degas and his work, and I know much more about Civil War photography and how it records the history. It was valuable new learning for me and I continue to share my experiences with others -- students and staff.

Did the process impact your teaching?
More than you can imagine. I thought I was a good teacher. I am much better because of National Board Certification.

I think through everything more carefully. If it doesn’t have significant impact on student learning, I don’t do it. I evaluate whether my strategies have more impact with or without the creative idea. I do even more reflection. As a result my students learn more.

Has it affected your role as a state leader?
Yes, definitely. I am currently serving as secretary-treasurer of the Arkansas Education Association. My role as immediate past Little Rock Teacher of the Year was made possible because of NBC. Despite all the other credits attached to my name year after year, I had never been nominated or selected. I was one of the first two board-certified teachers in my district. I used NBC as a part of my campaign to promote the idea that leaders in the Association can also be leaders in classroom instruction.

My selection as Arkansas Teacher of the Year has allowed me to promote the Association and NBC. I think people probably are getting tired of me trying to encourage them to become NBCTs.

It is an asset to me, to my local (where I served as president for two years), and to my school and my state. People say they are proud of me and of what I have accomplished. They are pleased that I advocate for them, and that I try to demonstrate the best of what teachers and educators can be.

I believe that as a leader at the school, local, state, and national levels, I must model good teaching. This promotes membership and belief in the purpose of the unified education profession.

I am National Board Certified and proud of it. I share my experiences whenever the opportunity presents itself.

What do you say to NEA members in Arkansas who contemplate NBC?
"Try it. You’ll like it." I believe that this process is the best professional development that I have experienced. Other NBCTs say the same thing about the learning experience.

I tell them that it provides an advantage for them because they learn more about themselves and about teaching and learning. I say, "This is a great opportunity for you and for your students. Seriously think about how you can improve."

I don’t say much about the stipend in Arkansas. It is not a selling point.

Katherine Wright Knight teaches ninth and tenth grade English at Parkview Arts/Science Magnet School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Knight adopted the Slavin model of cooperative learning in her classroom and is a certified trainer and statewide consultant. Other awards include her selection as the 2002 Little Rock School District Teacher of the Year and as the 2002 national recipient of The NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence, which recognizes excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession.

Other Profiles of National Board Certified Teachers

» NBC Brings New Leadership Roles  -- Teacher Tom White enjoys the challenges. (Washington)

» NBC: An Opportunity to Give Back to the Community -- Read about NBC Teacher Julie Hutcheson-Downwind. (Minnesota) 

» More Meaningful Than Master's Degree Work -- Read about National Board Certified teacher Barbara Grogg. (Delaware)

» Certification Was Pivotal Point in Her Career -- Find out more about National Board Certified teacher Linda Edwards. (Colorado)

» Profiles in National Board Certification -- Meet Rhonda Hale -- Teacher, mentor, and local prez. (Kentucky)