Centered

The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column. I first heard about National Board Certification in 1996 while I was attending Representative Assembly, the National Education Association’s annual conference. I remember thinking th

Sep 19, 2019

The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column.


I first heard about National Board Certification in 1996 while I was attending Representative Assembly, the National Education Association’s annual conference. I remember thinking that it sounded like just what we needed to elevate the teaching profession. But I didn’t foresee the impact it would have on my career and practice.

Later that year, I was the only teacher in Arizona to pursue National Board Certification. The odds were not in my favor, but I swung for the fences. Soon, I became Arizona’s first National Board Certified Teacher. I had no idea how daunting it would be, and I also didn’t realize how far it would take me.

It was lonely pursuing something I knew virtually nothing about. I remember submitting my work to the National Board, convinced I had done my best but worried it wouldn’t measure up. I also remember starting the next school year with a different mindset. I set more ambitious goals for myself during the annual meeting with my principal and looked at my practice with an entirely new lens. Without yet knowing the results of my certification process, I had improved as a teacher.

Since that time, I have worked alongside, supported, and watched thousands of Arizona teachers pursue National Board Certification. Many of them never become Board-certified, and many of them do. Regardless of the outcome, they invariably say, “I am a better teacher for having gone through the process.” Isn’t that what we all want?

Today, Arizona is home to 1,460 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs). You will find these teachers throughout our urban and rural communities. They teach everything from pre-K and physics to special education and physical education. They serve as school counselors, teachers, principals, and academic coaches, among other things. They have built a community of educators dedicated to being the best they can be for the students and families they serve.

When I compare my own Board-certification process with the present day, I notice a few promising improvements:

    • Arizona’s NBCTs stay in the profession longer than their counterparts. A recent study in South Carolina supports this observation. This is a logical outcome of the certification process — we are building a profession grounded in standards, and our teachers are more invested in achieving a level of accomplished teaching.

    • Arizona’s NBCTs are assuming leadership roles. Many serve as mentors to beginning teachers or academic coaches for experienced teachers. This is an incredibly positive development. Who better to guide and support the practice of others than a Board-certified teacher?

    • The National Board’s Five Core Propositions are starting to become embedded in pre-service coursework. A common set of core beliefs is central to teaching, and these Core Propositions have united teachers around a shared center.


I look forward to a future in which the pursuit of National Board Certification is the norm for our profession. Medical doctors don’t practice before they become Board-certified; why not have the same expectations for teachers?

Fortunately, some recent events at the state level point to promising opportunities. Governor Ducey and the Arizona Legislature appropriated new funding to support teachers, and tasked the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) with distributing it. The Arizona Teachers Academy has astutely recognized that the pursuit of National Board Certification is a possible teacher retention strategy and, as a result, there is now funding for 200 teachers in Arizona to pursue National Board Certification at almost no out-of-pocket cost. ABOR has called on the Arizona K12 Center, with its long history of supporting teachers seeking National Board Certification, to make this vision a reality.

Teachers can access this support by:





If this year is not a good time, teachers can also move forward with the Pre-Candidacy class now and complete the other elements in the 2020-2021 school year.

Since becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, I have attained a master’s degree and a Ph.D.; participated in hundreds of hours of professional learning; read countless journal articles; and engaged in numerous PLCs. Each of these experiences has been valuable but, for me, none has had the same impact as achieving National Board Certification. Being a National Board Certified Teacher has defined who I am and what I believe. It is a journey I wholeheartedly encourage others to follow.

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