Heidi Carpenter teaches science at Squalicum High School

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is an independent and nonprofit organization devoted to advancing the quality of teaching and learning.

Eight staff members in Bellingham Public Schools earned national board certification in 2020 following an intensive process of teaching and learning professional development. These teachers bring the total number of NBCT staff in the district to nearly 200 since its inception. View national board certified staff by district on the NBCT directory.

New national board certified staff includes: Geneva Elementary School special education teacher Chloe Cantero; Squalicum High School science teacher Heidi Carpenter; Carl Cozier Elementary School kindergarten teacher Heather Dowd; Cordata Elementary School third grade teacher Adrya Dubel; Squalicum English teacher Sara Edmonds; Options High School social studies teacher Alexander Giebelhaus; Birchwood Elementary School second grade teacher Chelsea Hawkins; and Birchwood kindergarten teacher Jessica Wallace.

A few of our recently certified teachers shared reflections about the certification process, especially during the pandemic lockdown, and their ultimate outcomes.

Chloe Cantero: Luckily I completed the majority of the components before schools closed last year, so the shutdown didn’t affect me – aside from giving me more time to write and study. Overall, I found the process to be challenging but very rewarding. Going through the standards and applying them to my practice made me think deeper about the instructional choices I was making. After completing the process I feel as though I have become a more thoughtful and well-rounded educator. While the process is rigorous and challenging, I highly recommend it.

Heidi Carpenter: Completing this process during lockdown was challenging for me only in the logistics of taking the content test.  I had completed and submitted all other components the previous year. Because of the lockdown, my test kept getting cancelled and rescheduled because the testing centers were closed. When I finally was able to take it, it was in a hot, non- air-conditioned room in July (with a mask on). The biggest lesson I’ll take away from National Boards is to always consider/think about my students. Specifically, to think about who they are, what their cultural background is, what they already know, how they learn, what challenges they have, what they do well. I need to think about these things every time I plan a lesson, write a quiz or test, show a video, read an article, make a seating chart. Every decision I make needs to be influenced by who my students are, so it is so important for me to know them.

Adrya Dubel: If someone were to ask me, what was the process like for completing your National Board Certification process, the first thing that comes to mind is it takes time. You spend a lot of hours thinking and reflecting about your lessons. The process is plan, reflect write, write, and rewrite. Oh and don’t forget to video tape yourself. I was in the middle of completing my last section when the pandemic hit and school was closed. Luckily, I had previously videotaped several lessons and was able to use those for my submission. My advice is to videotape a lot and do it early. You just never know what might happen. One of the biggest takeaways from completing the National Board certification process is that teachers do a lot of amazing things every single day to meet the diverse needs for their students. We are incredible at what we do and really strive to help every child shine!

Sara Edmonds: The certification process during Covid was challenging. I chose to do my certification process over the course of two years, completing two components each year. I left component 1 and component 4 — the Effective and Reflective Practitioner — for last, which ended up being right when Covid hit. I spent a long time planning the unit I would use for my component 4 and started to collect evidence right when the schools were shut down, and we were transitioned to online learning. Virtually everything that I was using for component 4 now could not be completed with the transition to online learning. Instead of postponing- which I contemplated many, many times— I used my written commentary to discuss the realities of moving to online teaching and the effects it had on my students. I was very open and real about how I had “no idea” what I was doing in this new teaching arena and that I was figuring it out as my students were. I also was very open with my students about navigating this new landscape and constantly reevaluating my expectations of what I was expecting from students. It was a learning process for all of us, especially me. But I am glad I pushed through and finished it. I think if there is any advice I can give candidates it is be real about not being an expert at online or hybrid teaching. It is your resilience and ability to adapt to the ever-changing landscape that makes you a wonderful and dedicated teacher.

Alex Giebelhaus: Completing my national boards was a 2-year process which involved resubmitting 2 components in the Spring of 2020. My first video recorded early March was finished, however, I carefully watched COVID begin to dominate the news cycle. I needed one more video and was preparing to do it the third week of March and I remember a conversation with my Mom, a teacher in the North Thurston School District, that her district had cancelled school for 3 weeks. The next morning, in a panic, I sent an all-staff email requesting to pull an entire class of students out of their classrooms so I could record my second video at the end of the day. Shortly after recording my video, we got the message that school would be cancelled for 5 weeks. In that moment I felt honored to be part of a staff that would be open to me pulling 20 students out of their classes for me.

While others may have been stocking up on home essentials, I spent the remainder of March and April writing commentary so I could submit on-time. At that time, the National Boards had been vague as to whether they would extend the deadline for submissions even-though most of the country was in lockdown.

The certification process made me critically analyze my classroom structures and instructional strategies in ways I hadn’t in the past. This analysis forced me to defend my choices which made me a more effective teacher. There would be no takeaway if it were not for strong educators supporting me develop my writing and analysis. I’d like to give a shout out to Yana Mansfield and Tracy Shaw for volunteering their time to give me the tough feedback I needed to succeed!

Chelsea Hawkins: The National Board process was rigorous from start to finish. Experiencing a global pandemic during the certification process was without a doubt challenging. Thankfully, I completed my last recording the day our schools went into lockdown. Although a difficult process, I am extremely proud to say, I am a National Board-Certified Teacher. The process was a personal, reflective, and thorough analysis of my teaching practice. As a result, I am a stronger more accomplished teacher for my students, colleagues, families, and myself. Becoming certified has enhanced my confidence in the classroom and heightened my responsibility in encouraging students to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners.


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