My NBCT Journey: How I Became One of The 4%

This blog is authored by Haley MacLean. Haley is the Curriculum and Education Specialist at STEM Sports. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and tells her story about becoming certified in 2020 and renewing her certification this year using the STEM Sports curriculum.

The Starting Line 

I was in my third year of teaching junior high math when I started to think about the next step in my career. I knew that I loved math; I loved brainstorming with my colleagues and creating engaging and meaningful math lessons for my students. This led me to the decision that my next step would be to become a Math Specialist.

I originally thought there was only one path to this, to get a master’s degree. I began to research different universities and master’s programs which led me to one conclusion, I can’t afford it. I was defeated but determined to find an alternative route.

As fate would have it, I received an email from my district office around that same time about the National Board Teaching Certification. I saw two statements that made me click to learn more: District Funded and Yearly Stipend. YES!

The financial incentive was what pushed me off the starting blocks. However, the more I learned about what it actually meant to be a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, the more I was hooked. I saw statements like “relevant and impactful professional development, created by teachers for teachers, and direct impact on students” and knew this was for me. If that wasn’t enough, my competitive side kicked into gear when I learned that less and 4% of teachers nationwide are nationally board certified. I decided then, I wanted to become a Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence Math. 


The Hurdles

I learned there are four hurdles, also known as the components, that you must overcome to become a Nationally Board Certified Teacher.

  1. The Content Test
    This was a content knowledge assessment that went beyond the scope of what I teach. Distinguished teachers must have a deep understanding of their entire content area.
  1. The Instruction
    The second component focused on my ability to differentiate my instruction to meet the diverse needs of my students. This involved adapting my teaching methods, materials, and assessments to address the various learning styles and abilities in my class. This component really forced me to reflect on the “why” behind each decision I made for my students.
  1. The Video
    The third component required me to submit unedited videos of my classroom instruction, and a reflection. I felt like an athlete again watching hours and hours of myself teaching: It was incredible what I learned by watching my students and reflecting on my instructional choices.
  1. The Reflection
    The fourth component forced me to demonstrate my effectiveness as a reflective practitioner. I had to provide evidence that I knew my students and knew how to advance their learning and growth.

These four components were the most challenging task I faced in my career. I spent hundreds of hours reading my content standards, planning lessons, recording lessons, reflecting on my teaching practices, analyzing student data, differentiating my instruction, and constructing a portfolio. When I thought I was finished, I would restart everything over again because this process made me question everything. For a moment I understood why so few teachers pursued this certification

After feeling complete exhaustion upon finishing all of the components, the only emotion I was left with was pride. I was and still am in awe of all I accomplished. I want more teachers to know about this opportunity, and to empower others to take on the task!


The Finish Line

I submitted my portfolio to the board in June of 2020. Then began the waiting game. In December of 2020, the results of the portfolio submissions were to be released at midnight. I waited for what felt like hours, refreshing my computer browser nearly a dozen times.

I told myself regardless of the outcome, this process was worth it. I thought I was a good teacher before, but this process forced me to question and reflect on everything I thought I knew. I knew that my teaching, and my students, were better because of this process and I would encourage all teachers to pursue it.

Finally midnight hits, I refresh my screen and I see the picture of fireworks. For those of you who have gone through the process, you know exactly what I am talking about. The fireworks of certification! The hundreds of hours I poured into this process, for myself and for my students, was a success! 


The Next Race

Becoming a Nationally Board Certified Teacher helped me to reach that next step in my professional journey. In 2023, I joined the STEM Sports® team as a Curriculum and Education Specialist. It was a difficult decision to leave the classroom and my students, but I knew this was the right choice for me. As a teacher, I was able to impact 150 students a year with the math lessons and resources I created. Now in my current position, I can impact thousands of students and teachers a year!!

The option to recertify my National Boards became available this year. I was unsure if this was a path I was going to take or not in my current role. I knew the components and portfolio requirements were different to recertify, so I began researching the process. As I read each requirement, I thought to myself, “Wow, I can achieve this STEM Sports® Curricula!”.

Continue to follow my journey to renew my National Board Certification using STEM Sports® Curricula by subscribing to our blog at the top of the page!

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