Anticipation is building for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) inaugural Teaching and Learning Conference coming up March 13-15th in D.C., and for good reason. In many ways, this gathering heralds NBPTS [finally] stepping into the role which its founders envisioned 25 years ago.

Over the past year or so, many of those founders, including Lee Shulman, Marc Tucker, and others have come back to share with NBPTS Directors and staff about that original vision.  These reflective discussions were not just for the sake of nostalgia, but rather a conscious effort on the part of NBPTS leadership to refocus the work of National Board in tighter alignment with its mission and purpose. The Teaching and Learning Conference is a very public expression of that reaffirmation.

This conference differs from other major education conferences in several important ways.  First, like National Board Certification, it is open to the broadest range of educators in the U.S.; whether they work in public, private, or parochial schools. It beckons teachers, librarians, counselors, and administrators from every grade level, subject area, or geographic region; whether they are members of NEA, AFT, or the non-union Professional Educators organizations. Such a deliberately, diverse gathering of educators is itself historic.

Equally significant, is that the conference puts teachers and teaching at both the head and the center of its focus. As if to underscore that intentional emphasis, this Teaching and Learning Conference, opens with 14 pre-conference focused, small group (most have limit of 20 persons) workshops which use the setting of Washington, D.C. as a learning opportunity for attendees. For example, those interested in teaching science will “discuss ways to get [their] students to think about the impact of science on society [and]….explore the physics of flight” at the National Air and Space Museum. Meanwhile, history and geography folk will get to preview a new 3D film at the National Geographic Society.

The heart of the T & L Conference, of course, will be a wide range of speakers and National Board Certified Teacher-led workshops in which thought leaders and policy makers will have to present and defend their ideas on education to the most important audience of all: the profession. The T&L Conference represents a too-rare opportunity for us to step back and zoom-out to examine our profession in at least some of its amazing complexity.

As an NBCT, [and a member of the NBPTS Board of Directors], I am very pleased to see this event coming together, and hope it marks an important turning point for our profession.

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