Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education


Department of Education

Primary Advisor

Dr. Sarah Yates

Second Advisor

Dr. Janet Deck

Third Advisor

Dr. Amanda Giles


The purpose of this study was to explore how National Board Certified teachers build relationships and cultivate empathy with middle school students in a Title 1 suburban school in the Southeastern United States. This qualitative case study was founded on the relational cultural theory, which focuses on the importance of authentic relationships. The research participants were two male and five female National Board Certified teachers of various subjects and grade levels. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants to gather the data. Themes that emerged were that the NBCTs were authentic, attentive, accepting, relational, and socially and emotionally supportive in relationship with the students. By examining the relational and empathetic nature of National Board Certified teachers, greater insight may be gained in how to strengthen teacher-student relationships and build meaningful connections with middle school students.