February 4, 2011 / Staff Management / Winter 2011

Aim for the top: National Board certification

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

More teachers are taking on the challenge of earning certification with the National Board for Professional Standards, including yearbook advisers.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was established to help students by improving teachers. It provides professional development certification for teachers similar to certification in other fields, such as accounting, financial planning and information technology. More than 82,000 teachers have earned the certification since it began in 1987.

iStock_000013258863SmallAlthough the process is rigorous and time-consuming, teachers pursue it to become better teachers and earn an increase in salary offered by most school districts. However, in the list of certification areas at nbpts.org, journalism is not on it.

For advisers who teach core subjects, this is not a problem. But teachers of journalism, yearbook and newspaper should not be deterred from earning this certification.

Among the yearbook advisers who have earned the certification are Niki Holmes of Annandale High School in Annandale, Va.; Lori Leonard of Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Md.; and Jessica Samons of Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Holmes and Leonard, who teach English, earned their certification in English Language Arts/Adolescence and Young Adulthood. Samons, who teaches journalism, creative writing, newspaper, yearbook and the literary/arts magazine at her magnet middle school, earned her certification in Career and Technical Education/Early Adolescence and Young Adulthood.

“If you’re serious about your teaching, I think it’s worth doing because it gives you a different perspective,” Holmes said. “It puts me in a community of colleagues who really are a fabulous resource, and that’s nice to have.”

Certification in a nutshell

Anyone who has visited the nbpts.org website knows how detailed it is, so this concise explanation just scratches the surface. National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential that can be earned in 25 categories that cover 16 subject areas within seven student age categories. Candidates complete 10 assessments – four portfolio entries and six tests.

The first three portfolio entries are classroom-based, and include videos and student work. The fourth entry demonstrates accomplishments outside of the classroom – with families, the community or colleagues – and how they affect student learning. The six 30-minute tests, taken at once, are to demonstrate content knowledge in the certification subject area.

In the portfolio entries, candidates must meet the standards for each certification. The standards vary between the certifications. While the approaches were different, Holmes, Leonard and Samons were able to incorporate yearbook into their portfolio entries. While teachers cannot release specific details about what they put in their portfolio entries, they are able to explain what direction they took.

The English teachers

Both Leonard and Holmes used their yearbook experience for the fourth portfolio entry, the one that focuses on professional development and what a candidate has done in their job to benefit students, the school and the community.

“Going into it I had people tell me not to write about yearbook, because it would hurt me,” Leonard said.

“But I couldn’t not put it in there because I’d be lying about who I was,” she said. “I showed all the things I did with the class above and beyond a book delivered on time.”

Leonard explained how she took over her yearbook program at Sherwood and built it into a journalistic program that helped students with skills that ranged from leadership and project management to writing and using software.

Both Leonard and Holmes documented how attending JEA/NSPA conferences benefitted both their students and them. Both advisers had yearbooks that earned Gallery of Excellence awards from Walsworth, and they discussed what their students did to create and improve the yearbook to receive the Gallery recognition – public recognition – for their work.

Career and Technical Education

Candidates applying for certification in Career and Technical Education must select a specialty area when applying. One of those specialty areas is Arts and Communications, which includes the concentrations of media arts, journalism and graphic arts, all subjects that Samons teaches.

One of the main differences in the standards between English Language Arts and Career and Technical Education is “Helping Students Transition to Work and Adult Roles.” Since Samons teaches middle school, she demonstrated how she prepared her students to be successful in high school. She documented the workplace-like environment that she has established to teach her students, including the daily five-minute staff meeting, handling their job responsibilities and meeting deadlines.

Samons has always done what she calls a “post-mortem” after the major deadlines for the yearbook and the newspaper, and she used this as part of her reflection and evaluation of her students and herself as to what went right and what they could do better next time.

Advice and other tidbits

While not sanctioned by the NBPTS, some school districts and local teacher organizations provide assistance with the process with classes and mentoring.

Holmes missed the classes in her district, but she and Samons each had another certified teacher in their school who mentored them by reading, reviewing and evaluating their work before submission. Leonard did attend the classes, and she was assigned a mentor in her school. But the most helpful part for her was the support of four friends who were going through the process at the same time. She also had a newspaper adviser at another school proofread and critique her entries.

Holmes and Leonard thought having their master’s degree helped with board certification work, while Samons said she thinks having the certification will help in attaining her master’s, which she began this past summer.

Leonard said yearbook advisers have one advantage in seeking certification.

“If someone is not organized, it’s almost impossible to do this. You need organization skills to get through this, but a yearbook adviser has those skills,” Leonard said.

  • Caroline Phillips

    I think yearbook advisers have a leg up when it comes to going for NBCT. Why? Because all we do is re-evaluate what our kids can and can’t do. It is constant formative assessment. And what we do IS a project, is authentic, and is easy to document. I used the turnaround of the yearbook culture in my first year at a new school as one of my “Accomplishments” and got very high marks. Yet, some advised me not to use yearbook.

Elizabeth Braden, CJE
Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the editor of Idea File magazine. She has been a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 10 years, writing articles for walsworthyearbooks.com and marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. She has taught at Adviser Academy. Her career has included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.