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English teacher earns national certification

Accomplishment, pride and validation are all emotions Melody Parnell said she experienced after being recognized last week by the Halifax County School Board for becoming the second Halifax County Public School teacher to attain National Board Certification.


Parnell, who currently teaches English 11 and 12 at Halifax County High School, has been molding the minds of high school students for the last 25 years. 

The veteran instructor said she first started thinking about becoming nationally board certified 10 years ago and finally decided it was time.

“I thought longer about starting this process than I did about getting married,” said Parnell.

Before moving to South Boston, the Robeson County, N.C. native taught at a school in North Carolina for 19 years.

She has taught the past six years at Halifax County High School.

“I taught so long in North Carolina, and it’s a really big deal there. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ you’re certified, but ‘when’ you’re certified…more states just put more focus on it,” added Parnell.

She received her undergraduate degree from Meredith University in Raleigh, N.C. and went on to pursue her master’s at UNC Pembroke. However when Parnell first entered college, it was not a teaching career she was chasing, but rather a major in music. 

“I soon changed my major. I wanted to teach music at first, but when it became work it wasn’t fun anymore,” said Parnell.

So following in her mother’s footsteps, also a teacher, Parnell took the path of an educator.

After 25 years she said she wanted to take it a step further, wanting to prove something to herself.

National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential that does not replace the teacher’s license but complements it and is valid for 10 years. 

According to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the certification process means a completion of 10 assessments that include four portfolio entries that feature teaching practice and six constructed responses exercises that assess content knowledge. 

The program gives candidates one to three years to complete the process.

“I thought I could do it in a year. It was a lot harder than I thought, so they were giving me three years, so I took the entire three years,” said Parnell.

 Even though the process was difficult, Parnell added, “It was worth it.”

“I learned a lot about myself, and it was a great sense of accomplishment,” said Parnell.

“I’m more proud of this than when I received my master’s,” she added.

Completing the certification forced Parnell to question herself, try new activities in class and ultimately made her a better teacher. Now she said she focuses more on the students and ways to help them.

“I have been teaching for 25 years, and nothing has ever happened like this to me before. I just feel validated like I’m doing something right,” said Parnell.

After two decades on the job, she has found her least favorite part of the job is grading papers and how repetitive the process can be; however, she enjoys getting to know the students and working with each of them.

Parnell resides in South Boston with her husband, the Rev. Mike Parnell, pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church. They have two sons, John Michael and Weston. John Michael is a junior at North Carolina State University, and Weston is a sophomore at Halifax County High School.

“Everyone has been so supportive. My family is thrilled, especially my husband, because he knows how much I put into it, and he ate a lot of take-out during the process,” Parnell said.

She received a certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that is recognized by every state, and her name has been added to their website as a national board certified teacher.

“I hope more teachers in Halifax will consider doing it,” Parnell said of the process to complete the national board certification.