While most teachers were giving out homework assignments, three Los Altos School District teachers were on the receiving end as they worked to attain their National Board Certification.
According to a Los Altos School District press release, the certification is the “most prestigious recognition in the field (of teaching).”
Shelby Regner, literacy instructional support teacher at Oak Avenue School; Samantha Nguyen, first-grade teacher at Almond School; and Natalie Cannon, sixth-grade teacher at Santa Rita School, received their certification in December.
The National Board Certification program aims to “develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide,” according to its website.
To complete the process, teachers are required to submit four components: an assessment and three portfolio entries with evidence and analysis demonstrating their pedagogical skills.
Regner, who has 12 years of teaching experience, said she wanted to attain certification after hearing from other teachers that it was harder than their graduate programs. She described it as a “long and difficult” process. She said the writing components were “unlike any other form of writing I’d done before,” and the required video analyses were extremely detailed.
Regner said she looked at individual moments in video “to explain (a variety of actions and decisions) based on those second-by-second observations.”
However, the process was gratifying, as Regner said the ability to grow and work more with her teacher-support network was the “greatest reward.”
“It’s only been a few weeks and I am already having people reach out to me for support and with opportunities,” she said. “It was an unexpected delight to grow my (teacher support network).”
Throughout her 17-year teaching career, Nguyen said she’s heard that the National Board Certification was the “most highly regarded certification in teaching.” She thought about applying but doubted her skills – until her father inspired her to apply last year.
“My father passed away last year right before the registration deadline, and one of the biggest things he taught me was sometimes you have to jump and figure things out on the way down … and pass or fail, I knew that I would grow from the journey,” she said.
During the certification journey, Nguyen faced challenges similar to Regner’s. She found the “ambiguity” of the questions the toughest, but she also struggled to find time to balance her certification work with teaching and motherhood.
Nevertheless, Nguyen received her certification and initially was in “disbelief.”
“I … didn’t tell anyone other than my husband and a friend for a few days,” she said. “It all became a reality when my superintendent … visited my class with a cupcake and card and told my first-graders that I had achieved something very challenging and difficult.”
In addition, the journey changed Nguyen’s perspective of teaching and certification. Initially, she thought the process was “validation that I was a good teacher” but later realized the certification was about “continuing to search for more ways to refine my practice” – something that “extends beyond certification.”
“This is just the beginning,” she said. “After teaching for so many years, I was looking for a way to continue to push myself and grow professionally. Working on the National Board Certification helped me find that direction.”
Inspired by her own teachers, Cannon wanted to become a teacher to “create a classroom that welcomes all students, supports them and helps them learn and grow.” When the certification opportunity arose, she pursued it.
“I wanted to know that the decisions I was making as a teacher were in the best of interests of my students,” she said.
Cannon added that it was important to her to model for her students “that everyone, no matter their age, is a learner.”
She found the written components extremely detailed – she had to reflect on “all of the decisions and choices I made” as a teacher – but, similar to Nguyen’s, Cannon’s biggest challenge was juggling teaching and her portfolio work.
“There were moments when I felt so out of balance as I tried to do it all that I didn’t think I would get to even complete the components,” Cannon said.
Earning the certification has helped Cannon build confidence and realize her strengths in the classroom, she said. In addition, it reinforced her career choice.
“This accomplishment really validates my decision to pursue teaching and all of the work I have done to get to this point,” she said. “I didn’t always know what I wanted to do for a career, but this shows me that I’ve definitely found my path.”