This past summer I became certified. I was excited to finally be able to add the letters NCTM after my name!
I had been thinking about certification for a few years now. Since I didn’t have ‘traditional’ credentials (I didn’t formally go to music school) — I figured certification would be an excellent way to prove myself professionally, not only as a piano teacher in the community, but also to my fellow colleagues in the field. So, I gathered up all of the registration materials and requirements — at first it seemed a little daunting, since I didn’t have the option of sending in my college transcripts, but I was determined to attain certification. Here’s what I did:
1) I began taking advanced classical studies with a college professor in the area who also takes private students. To complete the certification requirements for Performance Study you have to successfully perform at least one piece from each musical era from a list of college level repertoire. I studied Haydn sonatas, a Beethoven sonata, a few preludes and fugues from Bach’s WTC, Gershwin Preludes, a few pieces by Debussy, some Chopin, and some Schumann.

2)After the performance requirements were met, I began to study for my music history, pedagogy, and music theory exams. A certified teacher in my area kindly offered to proctor my exams in her home (so I didn’t have to wait for the state convention in the fall). I studied the 3 subjects fervently, and passed the tests (which I didn’t find too difficult after study).

3) The last portion of meeting the requirements was to take the 3 hour certification exam. Again, the certified member proctored the test in her home. The test was basically a list of essay questions about teaching philosophy and problem solving scenarios. It took concentration… and gave me writers cramp!… but a few weeks later I received notice in the mail that I had successfully completed the requirements and was now a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano.

It was a rewarding experience and I’m so glad I did it. I would encourage teachers to take that step and begin their application. I would be happy to mentor a teacher in my area, and I’m sure certified members of your local association would be happy to mentor you!

As of January 2010, the rules of becoming NCTM have changed. Please visit to get up to date on the new process.

On a different post I will talk about the renewal process for certified teachers.

So, how about you? Are you certified? Why or why not?