National Board Certification, the Second Time Around

Shelly Milne

Lately, I have been reading a lot about the importance of helping students develop a growth mindset. A student with a growth mindset knows she can grow through hard work and perseverance. Right now, I am totally embracing the concept of the “not yet” mind set. Thank you, Carol Dweck, for celebrating the idea of encouraging students to ‘stick with’ hard things. This concept is especially important to me because I have been a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence English-Language Arts (EA ELA) since 2004, and three years ago I decided to attempt certification in new area.

After renewing my certification in English-Language Arts, I moved to the position of Library Media Specialist in my building. As a Jump Start trainer and year-long National Board candidate support provider, I started reading the standards for Library Media Certification, and, yes, I saw some connections to my language arts standards, but I also noticed other areas that were unique to Library Media. I started thinking, “I need to learn these new standards and work on a second National Board Certification.”

Now achieving National Board Certification in Library Media is important to me because, after spending over three years working as a Teacher-Librarian, I realize the role and importance of Library Media Specialists is not fully understood. I earned a Library Media Endorsement from Antioch University three years ago, and before that experience I didn’t really know the significance of the role either. Earlier this school year, I was asked to cover another teacher’s class. I said, “I would, but I have a 5th grade library class coming in at that time.”

I was surprised when I heard this response, “We’ll get someone else to cover the library, so you can cover a core language arts class.” Fortunately, I have been around awhile, so I felt comfortable saying, “No, I am going to stay with the class I prepared to teach because I am doing important work in the library.” This attitude that library media is an extra add-on that isn’t as important as core classes is something I would like to address as a teacher-leader and earning my Library Media Certification will help me with this task.

I may be feeling anxious about finding out my scores, but working on a second certification has reminded me of just how much courage it takes to open up your practice for evaluation. It’s more than just a considerable time commitment. As a National Board Candidate, you tell assessors what you did; how and why you did it that way; and share student results and your reflection on the process. Then you send in your work and wait…and wait…and wait some more. Waiting for the score report where assessors tell you how much evidence of accomplished practice they found in your written commentary and other submitted artifacts. No teacher wants to read the words: shows little or no evidence of accomplished teaching practice.

So like all candidates who are waiting for their scores, I am nervous. As a National Board support provider, I am also nervous for the candidates I have been working with for the last three years. I know first hand how much energy, time, and commitment they have invested in this process. When they started in 2014, they didn’t know what score it would take to certify, but they were willing to open their practice to scrutiny and start the journey toward certification. I have the utmost respect for the pioneers of the NB 3.0.

I have been rehearsing what I will say to people if I don’t certify on my first attempt in this new certification area. When people ask I plan to remember the work of Carol Dweck and simply say, “Not yet.” This mindset is actually not a new concept for me. I have always embraced the “not yet” mindset. Not yet just means I am continuing to grow. As a 30+ year educator, a growth mindset makes sense. In over thirty years in this profession, I have never completed a school year, and yelled at the end, “I nailed it! All of it!” This teaching thing is complex. Like all accomplished educators, I always end the year reflecting on where I nailed it, and where I missed the mark.

So even though I am a little nervous as I anticipate Score Release Day on December 16. I do know this if my score is 110 or more, I will celebrate with all the thousands of new NBCTs across the country, and if my score is 109 or less I am still going to celebrate the growth I have experienced so far after digging deeper into what an accomplished Library Media Specialist knows and is able to do. After seeing my scores, I will do what I have always done. I will roll up my sleeves and decide what I need to learn, understand, and show in my next attempt because that’s what accomplished teachers do every single day.


Biography: Shelly Milne is National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence English Language Arts. LA. She certified in 2004, and renewed in 2012. Four years ago, she moved from a 7th grade Humanities classroom teacher at Cashmere Middle School into the position of teacher-librarian. She earned her endorsement in library media from Antioch University. She is currently a National Board Candidate in Library Media. She provides candidates with yearlong support and works as a Washington Education Association Jump Start Trainer. She’s also member of the National Education Association Jump Start Team.

21 thoughts on “National Board Certification, the Second Time Around

    1. Shelly Milne

      Thank you, Beth! I am so thankful for the network of NBCTs I work with in Washington State. #NBCTstrong

    1. Shelly Milne

      I am looking forward to working you and other librarians in Washington State to keep our libraries strong.

  1. Erika Muir

    Have we convinced every administrator of the value and importance of specialists? Not yet…

    But we will. Thanks for being a rock for others to build upon.

    1. Shelly Milne

      Thank you, Charlene! Waiting for scores is never easy for candidates, so I hope they all remember they have 2 more years to complete the process.

  2. Lena Flagel

    This article was so honest, real and absolutely beautiful. Shelly, you have a heart for children like no one else. I love to watch you in action, and our library had never been so empowering to students. You bring out the best in others and I love you for all you do! I know you’ll pass because you’ve already exceeded standard with CMS students! I love you!

    1. Shelly Milne

      Thank you, Lena. This is why I am able to take risks and be vulnerable. I know if I say, “Not yet,” I have you supporting and loving me as I continue the work. I am sending love right back at you and feeling so grateful for your support.

    1. Shelly Milne

      Thanks, Marci. I am proud to be a member of the NBCT community. The process is about student learning and professional growth, two things worth endorsing.

  3. Shari Conditt

    What an excellent piece. I appreciate your desire to push yourself towards another certificate as a way to grow in your knowledge and application of this new work you’ve been doing for the past 3 years. It’s a great reminder to us that the NB cert process isn’t just snot documenting what we do, it’s also about our own growth as we work to understand and implement what accomplished work looks like in our schools.

    1. Shelly Milne

      Exactly! For me the NB process has always been about growth and thinking about what accomplished teaching looks like within a particular content area. When candidates approach it with that mindset, it’s a journey of growth for them as well. As a NB support provider I celebrate when the discussion shifts from what do I do to how do I show the accomplished teaching I am already doing in my classroom. It’s also when the candidate might realize, “Hey, I need to learn more in this area.” That’s why I love this process because when a candidate can see and select his own pathway for improvement that’s when real growth happens.

  4. Jim Meadows

    You are amazing and inspiring, Shelly Milne. You are the consummate lifelong learner. Great piece!

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