As most of you know, IT Academy provides a bounty of benefits for teachers, not least of which is access to free Microsoft certification exams. These exams lead to three relevant certifications for teachers:

  • Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) for professional development
  • Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification
  • Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) certification

While many staff and instructors take advantage of this benefit, others don’t. Why is that?

The Q&A answers below, compiled in part from last month's webinar on professional development through Microsoft certification, might make you think twice about passing up that exam benefit. Read what these two IT Academy educators have to say—and watch the webinar to view their presentations. Both teachers are Microsoft certified and eager to share their perspectives on the value of certification.

Katherine Schmit, Business & Technology Instructor, Kalama High School in Kalama, WA

ITA: How and why did you pursue Microsoft certification?
KS:  I became a teacher and tried to teach my students these skills. I was teaching digital and computer applications at the time, and I knew that no matter what they learned, it wouldn't matter unless I could quantify it with some type of certifications for an employer.

When I heard about IT Academy and three certification exams, for me as an educator in Washington State, I was all in. It didn't matter what it took. I wanted to lead the way for them by getting myself certified.

ITA: What might hold a teacher back from certification?
KS: For a teacher, probably our biggest concern with certification is time constraint. The second would be fear: What if I take the exam and I fail? I'm supposed to be teaching my students this. Don't let that scare you. I say, get into the exam as soon as you possibly can.

ITA: In your opinion, what’s the greatest value of Microsoft certification for teachers?
KS: When you can tell your students that you are certified and that you know that they can do this, they have so much more confidence in you. Certification is key for an instructor. For me, it's created all the difference in my confidence as an instructor as well as in my students' confidence in me to lead them.

ITA: How does Microsoft certification lend to a teacher’s ability to adhere to Common Core Standards that are being enforced in the United States and numerous countries worldwide?
KS: Currently every single discipline in the United States has a Common Core technology component that should be included with their final exam or with their final classroom-based assessment.

Students need to know how to use PowerPoint, how to integrate a spreadsheet into their PowerPoint, how to integrate Word, how to integrate charts. All of those types of things, how to save your PowerPoint as a movie so that it can be broadcast on the internet. These are just basic skills that students have to know across the disciplines.

Justin Crompton, CTE IT Instructor at Academy at Central in High Point, NC

ITA: What’s different about Academy at Central?
JC: We're a special school because we allow students to graduate in three years, on an accelerated track. So we do things a little differently than a traditional school, and we focus on technology.

ITA: What Microsoft certifications do you hold, and what do you teach?
JC: I'm a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), and I have four different MTA certifications. I'm an Office Master, and I have six other Office certifications. I've been in a classroom seven years. I teach the MTA track, and I also teach Office courses and programming. I also write curriculum.

ITA: What do you consider the most valuable certification for any teacher?
JC: The most important certification for any teacher actually is Microsoft Certified Trainer.

MTA is a great starting point for fundamental knowledge, a step up from Office specialist. I know a lot of IT Academies focus on the Office specialist, but the MTA is a great step up, not only for the students, but also for any educators. MTA provides fundamental knowledge in various areas.

If you, as an educator, want to know how the Internet works better, how networks connect, how Microsoft Windows handles connections, the Networking Fundamentals is a great certification to start with. It breaks down wireless connections, talks about encryption, all of these different things that'll help you better understand how computers talk to each other and how the Internet works.

The next one, OS Fundamentals, is a really good one for any educator, not even as a technology educator, anyone who wants to know more about Windows 7, more about how it operates, how to customize the desktop, how to set up a backup, how to use the control panel, set up a printer. All these basic things that you might need to do, this certification teaches those things.

Security is a really good one to have, because it gives you great fundamentals on how to secure data and tells you about the current threats that are out there. As you know, threats evolve, there are new threats every day.

Lastly, Server Fundamentals is kind of the more advanced one of the track. It covers what happens behind the scenes. Most users don't see how the server operates and how permissions, sharing and stuff works. That kind of happens behind the scenes, and that's what server administration fundamentals covers. It’s great for your professional development if you want to know…how the client interacts in a domain, how it interacts with other computers in a server-client environment.

ITA: What special opportunities have unfolded for you, by way of your Microsoft certification?
JC: Certification in the classroom lends respectability to the instructor, but it can also open doors for you to train others, either in your school district, at the state level, or other opportunities. Certifications are how I got into doing training at the state level. I write curriculum for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, which is the governing body for public education in the state.


Keith Loeber is the Director of the IT Academy Program for Microsoft Learning Experience. He and his team oversee the strategy, benefits, operations, and policies for the program. An 18-year Microsoft veteran, Keith has spent the last several years in education with the majority of his career focusing on training and certification.


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