Minooka teacher is ‘willing to change and grow constantly’

That’s why Kristen North pursued National Board certification

Kristen North will retire as a National Board-certified teacher. And that makes her very happy.

Excellence in teaching is all-important to North, a career and technical education teacher at Minooka Community High School District #111. And a National Board certification measures exactly that.

But excellence in teaching does not mean perfection, North said. It does not mean zero errors or mistakes, she said. It does mean plenty of self-evaluation, she said.

“This is the epitome of what a good teacher is: that you take the time to reflect on what you did after you’re done teaching it, that you’re willing to make changes and willing to take risks to try new things and not do the same thing year after year after year,” North said.

This is important, North said, because nothing stays the same, not teaching methods, not curriculum, she said.

North said she became determined to achieve her National Board certification about 12 years ago. She had taken a master cohort program that was “touted” as “leading to National Board certification.”

So in 2011, North applied for a state grant to cover most of the registration cost, which is currently $1,900, according to the National Board website. North’s mentor was a science teacher, but North also reached out to an Illinois agriculture teachers group for additional support, she said.

North said the main concept she learned while earning her NBCT is the difference between a learner-centered classroom and a teacher-centered classroom. Some people think a learner-centered classroom means students take charge of the classroom or subject matter. But that’s not true, North said.

In learner-centered classrooms, teachers are facilitators, not lecturers, and students are actively engaged in learning, North said. Learner-centered classrooms encourage students to ask questions, brainstorm and engage in dialogue, North said.

North registered to take the test in the spring of 2012 and waited months for her entries to be assessed. She passed on her first try, even though she was told most don’t pass in that first year, even though most teachers have to reassess their scores and try again, she said. North was one of the fortunate ones.

“So there I was, up at 5 a.m., refreshing my computer constantly — waiting,” North said in a written statement. “When my computer finally refreshed to show my scores, I started screaming.”

She received her recertification in 2022, which shows she is “willing to change and grow constantly,” she said.

“To me, this designation is worth more than any degree a person can earn because this is my recognition of my teaching abilities, not some paper I wrote, but what I actually do in the classroom,” North said in a written statement. “I’ve earned two master’s and am working on a doctoral degree, but these degrees are simply following a set of courses to learn about various parts of education. The National Board process is a look into me as a teacher. I’m proud to say I am a National Board-certified teacher.”

The National Board, a nonprofit established in 1987, “was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide,” according to its website.

To that end, it maintains “high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do,” provides “a national voluntary system certifying teachers who meet these standards,” and advocates for related education reform to integrate National Board certification in U.S. education, the website also said.

For more information, visit nbpts.org.