Friday, May 27, 2016

#NBCT Reflections

by Amber Chandler

In this digital, social media world, it is a special occasion when you actually come face to face with with your #PLN. It’s exciting to meet people whose Tweets you’ve liked and who traded emojis with. I had that opportunity presenting at the 1st Annual Far West National Board Certified Teachers Summit last month.

As I walked into NYSUT Regional headquarters, I looked around anxiously for someone who would let me into the room where I’d be presenting “They’re Not Sheep,” my latest thoughts on differentiation. As always before speaking at a conference, my rational side was off duty, and I was excessively nervous that somehow the slideshow I had wouldn’t exist on Google Docs or on my jump drive, and I’d be left to wing my way through the presentation.

I spotted Amy Steger, one of the NBCT teachers who organized the Summit, and the very person I’d hope to see, and what did I do but go and hug a stranger. Immediately, I laughed, but it was not the last hug I’d give that day to near strangers.

Before you think I’m just overly familiar with people, you’d need to understand that the process to achieve National Board Certification requires a time commitment that becomes a season of your life. When I achieved my certification, with lots of help from the Southtown Teachers Center and our support provider Mary Ann Dates, I had a 4 month old, a toddler, and the crazy notion that it would be a good time to up my game. Let’s just say that baby has just celebrated his 8th birthday, but it didn’t stop me from running up to Mary Ann like it was yesterday.

This summit was an opportunity for Teri DiPasquale and Lori Mancuso, the Far West Co-Regional Coordinators, to gather NBCTs from the region and celebrate our achievement, as there were some newbies there, as well as some awaiting the results; however, the underlying purpose was to put a bunch of teacher leaders in the same room and see what happens. The great thing about this opportunity was that we were incredibly lucky to be joined by Annette Romano, the Co-Director of NBNY and Co-Regional Coordinator of the Eastern Upstate Region, as well the 2014 Teacher of the Year, Ashli Skura-Dreher. Co-Regional Coordinators for Long Island, Erin Gilrein and Jennifer Wolfe, had made the trip too, and they were the most dynamic, inspiring duo I have heard in a long time!

To say I was nervous to present is an understatement. But, as Erin and Jennifer challenged the room to be teacher leaders, start small and grow our tribe, it occurred to me that even though I didn’t know these women, there was something so familiar, something so tangibly authentic about the electricity in the room, that I didn’t have to worry. As I approached the microphone, I offhandedly commented that Erin and Jennifer were my soul-sisters, and to my relief, I watched the room full of people who had sacrificed their Saturday nod in agreement.

I talked about Differentiation and Project Based Learning, but I knew I was in a room of accomplished teachers, so I felt like I was preaching to the choir. However, what really impressed me was the warmth with which these “highly qualified teachers” received my ideas and their desire to still keep learning. If you feel like you might fit in a room like this, a room where no one is the expert because we are all teacher leaders and learners, a room where you might hug a near stranger because he or she just “gets it,” or you’re looking for your teacher tribe, then you might want to pursue National Board Certification.

Learn more about National Board Certification at

Amber is a National Board Certified 8th grade ELA teacher and the author of The Flexible ELA Classroom: Differentiation for Grades 4-8, which will be available in September 2016. She is launching a website for teachers this summer called and is looking for submissions for the Collaborator’s Page, so get in touch! You can connect with her on Twitter or on her website for inspiration and downloadable resources. She can also be reached at


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