Skip to Content

NBC: An Opportunity to Give Back to the Community


Julie Hutcheson-DownWind NEA member Julie Hutcheson-Downwind, a National Board Certified teacher, answers questions about the certification process and how it has affected her practice.

Julie Hutcheson-Downwind is a kindergarten teacher at John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary School in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1997, she was a finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year and in 1998 she won the Eagle Award, for outstanding contributions to the St. Paul American Indian community. Hutcheson-Downwind's certification is in early childhood generalist.

Here is how Hutcheson-Downwind described her experience with the National Board Certification process.

Why did you pursue National Board Certification?
I was in my fourth year of teaching and really did not find satisfaction or validation with the existing principal evaluation procedures. To me, three 15-minute observations per year did not provide much insight into my strengths and areas needing improvement. I really wanted a way to compare my teaching to that of experienced professionals teaching students of the same age in the same content area. A colleague gave me a copy of the National Board standards. After studying them, I decided to pursue certification.

What did you think about the National Board standards when you first read them?
I felt that they were exactly what I was looking for -- not prescriptive, but descriptive of accomplished teaching. Knowing that the standards were written by teachers in the field, I felt that they were authentic and of the highest quality. I felt that I finally had a "road map" to get to be the teacher I wanted to be.

What about the assessment process was memorable? Was it difficult?
The most memorable part of the assessment process was meeting and working with so many wonderful teachers. In St. Paul, I was part of a cohort of teachers going through the process. We had the assistance of a facilitator and a group of NBCTs from the previous year. Through collaboration with colleagues, we examined our practice and studied the standards. I found this feedback to be extremely helpful in improving my teaching. They could easily identify strengths and areas needing improvement because they knew exactly what to look for.

It was difficult. Anyone who commits to this process is taking a risk and is opening up to self-examination and examination by others. Nevertheless, I feel that improvement occurs wherever the National Board standards are examined. It is not the final result -- whether a teacher is National Board certified or not -- it is participating in the process that brings forth improvement and accomplished teaching.

Do you think your teaching practice was affected by your participation? If so, how?
My practice was definitely improved by the process. I took time to reflect on what was working and what was not. I was able to gather feedback on my portfolio from other professionals, from both teachers in the field and teacher educators. I kept the strategies that were effective and I replaced those that were not.

How did achieving National Board Certification affect you? Your job or career?
National Board certification has provided me an opportunity to serve on many local, state, and national committees representing classroom teachers. I have been able to participate in conferences working with other teachers from across the country. I have been asked to speak to many different groups about my views on teaching and education. Also, I have been fortunate to work with other NBCTs and teachers pursuing National Board certification.

I taught at an American Indian Magnet School that had a specialized curriculum for Native children, incorporating Native languages and culture into the literacy block. Much of this curriculum was demonstrated in my videos and student work. The National Board process was a wonderful venue to demonstrate this type of teaching because the National Board standards and process are open to different teaching contexts and cultures.

The American Indian community in St. Paul, Minnesota, celebrates the achievement and successes of individuals. It is empowering for the community when individuals take risks and improve themselves professionally, personally, culturally. The community celebrates education because it benefits our children and improves our people's future. Achieving a higher education degree or a credential like National Board Certification provides the opportunity to give back to the community. Going through this process, I felt the support of my family, extended family, and community. They helped where they could and always offered support and encouragement.

Julie Hutcheson-Downwind is a kindergarten teacher at John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary School in St. Paul, Minnesota. The school is part of a public-private partnership that focuses on raising student achievement as well as providing students' families with school, recreation, and community services in one convenient location. In addition, Hutcheson-Downwind serves as an Adjunct Professor at the College of St. Catherine, the nation’s largest Catholic college for women, also in St. Paul.

Article by Julie Hutcheson-Downwind

» Board Certified -- How a novice became a master teacher with a little help from her friends. In the May 2005 NEA Today.

Other Profiles of National Board Certified Teachers

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

» A Great Adventure and the Chance of a Lifetime -- Find out more about NBC teacher Katherine Wright Knight. (Arkansas)

» 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)