National Board certification feels like huge validation

Before David Cupp decided to tackle becoming a National Board Certified teacher, he did a lot of research and participated in information sessions.

He discovered that it was “truly is the gold standard of teaching.”

“It’s not that they teach you how to be a teacher it’s that I’m having to prove that I’m doing what’s best for kids,” said Cupp, who is a gifted and talented elementary specialist for Ector County ISD.

He added that it was created for teachers and he would be asked to reflect on himself and his teaching practices to forge himself into a better educator.

“… That’s exactly what it did it’s because it forced me to reflect on what I did … well and lessons that I would have thought would go great and maybe they didn’t and it caused me to reflect on what did I do, what could I do to help the students grow and learn and come back the next day better prepared and helping them achieve their goals,” Cupp said.

In his role as a gifted and talented elementary specialist, he goes to six different campuses and supports kindergarten through second grade teachers. While he was working on National Board certification, he had to adopt a classroom, so over the last two years, he taught a fifth-grade pullout class.

Cupp earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in government from Angelo State University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

This is Cupp’s ninth year with ECISD and he is alternatively certified. He’d always wanted to be a teacher, but wound up in retail management. One of his neighbors when he lived in Austin was a school secretary and suggested he try substituting.

“It reignited my love for education and that’s when I went back and started my alternative certification. In 2014 is when I joined the school district — the 2014-2015 school year,” Cupp said.

It took two years to complete National Board. He completed components one and two in the first year and three and four in the second. Cupp submitted everything in May and then had to wait for seven months until December for the scores.

“It was a shock,” he said of finding out he’d achieved his goal. “You don’t think about it for the seven months coming up to it and then right about December you start getting these emails of update your account and then it becomes real,” he added.

He said he remembers logging in about 11:30 p.m. and saw fireworks. He tried not to scream so he wouldn’t wake up the household.

” … It was a really exciting moment and I just remember (thinking) I did it; I did it. It was this weight of relief knowing I submitted all this evidence trying to show that I’m a good teacher, showing that I do what’s best for students and almost having that validation because you’re having other people evaluate your work, other people watch the video lessons that you submit and they’re agreeing” so he knows he’s in the right place, Cupp said.

“I’m where I need to be. Education is my passion and I made the right decision going back for it,” he added.

Cupp said he enjoyed support through the district and his fellow teachers.

“I’m in the second cohort. The district had a grant through the Permian Strategic Partnership, so they paid for all my components. On top of that, they provided support through mentorships where we were able to meet once a week through the Stanford group and we were able to get feedback on ways to write because the writing for National Board is not academic writing so that was a challenge and trying to meet the constraints of the page limits they give you. We were able to meet with a mentor that was in our certification area,” he said.

Cupp added that it’s a great system because, as they say, it takes a village to raise a child.

“… It takes a village to teach kids, so you have to go beyond,” he added.

If we want Ector County students to be great, Cupp said, they need to use all the resources they can to make them better.

Cupp said he would encourage other teachers to try for National Board certification.

“I wouldn’t even have to think about it. One of my mentors told us when we submitted back in May that even if you don’t certify just going through the process makes you a better educator because you’re having to reflect. He was right because even if I didn’t certify back in December I would have still continued my process but I would have had to reflect on what did I do, what do I need to do different and that’s the best thing that this has taught me is reflection,” he added.

Director of Advanced Academic Services Kristen Vesely was thrilled with Cupp’s accomplishment.

“I am very proud of Mr. Cupp. He joined the Advanced Academic Services team as GT teacher three years ago and now serves as a specialist. He has always searched for ways to be a better teacher and to improve his craft. I was thrilled when he approached me about working on his National Board Certification. He poured hours into learning and reflecting on his craft. I am very proud of his work and growth as an educator,” Vesely said.

“Being a National Board-Certified teacher will enable Mr. Cupp to grow his students more effectively and will enable him to support ECISD elementary teachers in their growth as well. Mr. Cupp is an outstanding educator, and we are thankful to have him on the Advanced Academic Services team,” she added.