Board Certified Teachers Why They Make a Difference


By Suzanne Farmer

I’m a parent of two school-aged girls, but also an educator. Being a parent has improved my instruction, and being a teacher has improved my ability to advocate for my kids.

After teaching for 14 years, I’m currently on leave from my school district to direct a grant project to improve education for all Kentucky students.

Our goal is to increase the number of National Board Certified teachers and place existing Board Certified teachers in leadership roles.

Becoming Board Certified changed my instruction in ways that have benefited every student I’ve taught since.

I’ve learned to reflect on what works and what doesn’t for each child, and make changes in my teaching to engage and challenge each student appropriately.

Not all National Board Certified teachers are rock stars, and not all rock stars are board certified.

However, all Board Certified teachers are better than they were when they started the certification process.

It’s a rigorous road to certification. Many teachers are intimidated by the near 40% first-try certification rate.

But the journey is worth it. A wide range of studies indicate that Board Certified teachers are more effective than non-board certified teachers.

My children understand the value I place on Board Certification, and one came home from school excited to say, “I have a National Board Certified teacher this year!”

I know that my daughter will have challenging and appropriate education every day.

I know that the instruction will include her interests and give her opportunities to demonstrate what she knows, question what she doesn’t and persevere in her learning.

I know that her teacher will actively reach out to me as a parent, and encourage two-way communication and involvement in her learning.

Don’t we want every child to have a teacher who provides this?


How do teachers become Board Certified?

They voluntarily submit to a process that proves that they are accomplished at core propositions.

In a nutshell, the propositions are that they know the content they teach, can teach it to anyone, and they keep perfecting their craft.

What can you do to make board certified teachers available to every child?

The state of Kentucky has already accepted that challenge and has put a statute in place that recognizes the value of board certification.

The state has set a goal that every school in the Commonwealth will have at least one National Board Certified teacher by 2020.

About 40% of Kentucky schools do not have a board certified teacher. Does your child’s school?

Here is what you can do:

  • Learn who is board certified in your child’s school. (Visit
  • Encourage your school and school board to recognize teachers that are board certified.
  • Ask your school district what incentives and supports they provide for teachers who are board certified.

Kentucky provides teachers with a $2,000 stipend each year they are board certified, and a rank change (bump in salary) if they have a master’s degree and have not already completed an additional 30 hours above their master’s (rank 1).

  • Have your child make a card encouraging his or her favorite teacher to pursue board certification.
  • Provide your site-based decision making council with research about the value of board certification.
  • Consider using Parent Teacher Organization funds to invest in application costs, training or substitute release days for teachers pursuing board certification.


I’m concerned that it’s taken until my daughter began seventh grade before she sat in a National Board Certified teacher’s class.

It wasn’t until I experienced the comfort and excitement of knowing what her year of learning will involve that I took to heart what I had always known in my head – that we must make National Board Certified teachers available to every kid, every day.

Sometimes it takes a child to help us understand the obvious.

Suzanne Farmer, NBCT and mother of two girls, has taught preschool, kindergarten and math intervention, and was the Kentucky 2012 recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching. She is currently on leave from the Danville Independent Schools to serve as the Kentucky Director of the Network to Transform Teaching, which is a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education. This article was arranged through Lauren Hill, the teacher leadership coordinator at the state Dept. of Education.