For Uniondale school librarian Salamah Adjoua-Mullen, seeking National Board Certification was a journey that forced her to slow down and reflect on her practice.
"In education, everything is so rush, rush — often there's not even time to go to the bathroom," Adjoua-Mullen said. Working her way through the three-year national board process, Adjoua-Mullen said she learned to take a hard look at what she was doing, why she was doing it and how her practice was helping her students grow.
"It's a lot of questioning," she said. "At first, it drove me crazy ... But now I can't think any other way as I plan lessons and activities." Now in her 10th year as a school librarian, Adjoua-Mullen sees her work revolving around two core goals: "How do I get children to love reading? And how can we make learning fun?"
Adjoua-Mullen, who proudly brought her husband and daughter to a celebration of Long Island NBCTs, is one of 118 teachers statewide who earned National Board Certification in December 2017, plus an additional 31 educators who successfully renewed.
Created by teachers, for teachers, National Board Certification is the nation's highest credential for the teaching profession. It is a voluntary, rigorous, peer-reviewed process that includes a portfolio, student work samples and videos of classroom teaching. Nationwide, the Class of 2017 included 5,470 new NBCTs, bringing the total to more than 118,000.
Looking back on the hundreds of hours she devoted to complete the four-component process, Adjoua-Mullen called her journey the ultimate professional development. "Instead of traditional P.D., where somebody is telling you how to do it, it's professional development that centers around you," she said. "You're learning for yourself the best ways to approach your teaching."
Pursuing National Board Certification is definitely introspective, but Adjoua-Mullen noted she didn't do it alone. Aside from having a supportive family, an NBCT candidate support group at nearby Roosevelt School District kept her on track. "We met once a month and the group really supported me anytime I had a question or felt stressed out. I had many mentors."
New York State now has nearly 2,000 NBCTs, with hundreds of districts offering a salary step increase, release time or a stipend for achievement. NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango said the union strongly supports national board candidates by offering awareness programs, support and advice through online discussion forums, writing retreats and professional development through its Education & Learning Trust. The union also works with teacher centers to support candidates.
In addition, NYSUT was instrumental in gaining the state's Albert Shanker Grant which covers costs for National Board Certification. The 2017 funding was exhausted in just 12 weeks, prompting both NYSUT and the State Education Department to lobby for additional Shanker funding in the coming year.
Achieving National Board Certification can also be used to satisfy the state's new Continuing Teacher and Leader Education requirements, DiBrango noted. Through NYSUT's Education & Learning Trust and Empire State College, candidates can earn three graduate credits for each completed component for a total of 12 graduate credits. Each national board component will be one three-credit graduate course, costing only $300 for members.
Now that the process is more flexible and allows more time, candidate numbers are dramatically increasing. Currently, nearly 700 candidates in New York State are in the NBCT pipeline, with the most in New York City, Yonkers, Schenectady, Manhasset and Croton-Harmon school districts.
After more than 20 years as a high school English teacher, Great Neck TA's Theresa Walter took on the national board challenge because she was looking to push herself. "I'm hoping it will open opportunities for me to take on teacher leadership roles and still stay in the classroom," she said.
Regent Roger Tilles, who attended the Long Island event at Adelphi University, congratulated the NBCTs. "I know how hard you've worked and how high the standards are," he said.
Want to know more?
Teachers interested in pursuing National Board Certification can find resources online, including a support program, tips and a list of districts that offer incentives. Visit www.nbcny.org or www.nysut.org.