Steven Humble, NBCT, a science teacher at Desert Meadows School in Laveen, has become a leader for National Board Certification in his district and the state. Here, he shares some of what he's learned about building a program.Jun 02, 2022
Since he first heard about National Board Certification as an undergraduate at Northern Arizona University, Steven Humble knew he wanted to become a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT).
“My thought process on life is if I’m going to do something, I want to excel at it,” Humble says. “I want to be at the top of my game and on top of my practice. National Board Certification is something I’ve wanted to do since I became an educator.”
What he may not have expected is how much it would transform how he teaches and how it would open up the opportunity for him to become a leader in his district, Laveen Elementary School District.
“I can tell you that everyone I ever talked to before I certified told me that it made them a better teacher,” he says. “And that’s what I share now with my candidates that I coach: that it made me a better teacher and it gives me a framework to approach my practice.”
When Humble certified in early adolescence science in 2018, he was the third NBCT in the district and joined with another NBCT to begin advancing the program in Laveen. Laveen now has four NBCTs and 12 candidates.
“I know for sure I would not be as effective as a teacher now had I not done National Board,” he says. “I also think that National Board Certification has helped to keep me in this profession long-term. I don’t think I would have left, but it’s improved how happy and satisfied I am with my career because I’m not struggling in the same way that I feel I may have.”
Here are Humble’s tips for growing and supporting National Board Certification efforts at your school or district.
A stipend can be the first step.
Humble is transparent that it’s the possibility of a stipend that brings a lot of teachers to National Board informational meetings. Once they begin the process, though, they see the value of the process and the growth that happens.
Laveen provides $3,000 stipends to those who certify. It’s worth it for both the teachers and the district, he explains.
“I always tell people, ‘Listen, there is no shame in wanting essentially a $3,000 raise.’ But the district is getting something for that as well. If you look at it from an investment standpoint, you are getting a better teacher for the process. And the more you can compensate those teachers for that, the more you will get teachers investing in that process.”
Humble also acknowledges that not all district budgets are able to offer a stipend for National Board Certification, but encourages districts to consider it.
Providing time is crucial.
National Board Certification “is a big-time commitment and not every teacher has that time available,” Humble notes.
NBCTs can ask district leaders about providing time for candidates to work on the process. At Laveen, the district provides professional learning credits for the pre-candidacy class.
“If we say it’s the best professional development, districts can approach it that way.”
Be realistic about the process.
It’s easy to get excited about the National Board Certification process. After completing pre-candidacy, teachers can be idealistic and plan to complete all four components in one year.
Humble encourages candidate support providers and coaches to be upfront about the time and energy commitment National Board takes. He’s seen teachers complete and achieve certification in one cycle, but teachers need to be aware of what they’re committing to.
That can also mean helping candidates come to terms with perfectionism. Humble mentions he too can struggle with wanting to submit perfect evidence to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
“‘The recorded videos need to be perfect. The lessons have to be perfect. The data and materials that I submit have to be perfect.’ No, they don’t,” he explains. “That’s not what this process is about. It’s a process. It’s about reflection. This process is about impacting students and there’s always room to do more there.”
Host your own pre-candidacy class.
If you are able to run a National Board Pre-Candidacy Class in your district, do it, Humble suggests.
When you host a pre-candidacy class in your district, Humble says, “you get to collaborate with people you might work with. You understand the person's context. You understand district mandates. You understand schedules. You understand the standards and the curriculum and agree. You understand all of the nuances of their day-to-day job,” unlike someone from outside your district.
The Arizona K12 Center is now offering new incentives for districts hosting their own pre-candidacy class. The Center will now provide $1,500 to pre-candidacy facilitators who are able to enroll 15 people in their class. Facilitators in smaller districts can combine with another district to reach the 15-person minimum.
Reach out to Kendall Waite at the Arizona K12 Center at email@example.com to learn more.
You can make the difference in your district.
“It always starts with one person,” Humble says. “You might be the only one in your district. But when people see the results, one can become two, can become four, can become a lot more.
Humble knows it can be difficult being the only one building a National Board program but that there are others across the state to connect to and work with. The Arizona NBCT Network and Arizona K12 Center can also help connect you with others.“It can be lonely to be the only one, but it's rewarding not just for your students, but for you as well,” Humble says. “Just know that there are a lot of us in the state, even though we're not always physically near. There's a lot of support and a lot of people to help you.”