This week’s guest blogger is Cathy Bradshaw,  Business Education teacher at Hamilton County High School. Cathy shares how the IT Academy program has enabled seventh graders to earn industry certification, prepare for college and careers and boost self-confidence to achieve more every day .

My name is Cathy Bradshaw. I am the Business Education teacher at Hamilton County High School. I teach Information & Communications Technology - Essentials I, Computer Applications in Business, Computing for College and Careers, and Digital Design I, II, & III. I work under the leadership and administration of Karen Mitchell (CTE Director), Waylon Bush (Site Administrator) and Thomas Moffses (Superintendent).

Our school serves students in grades 7th through 12th (middle and high school), approximately 725 students. Our school was one of the schools selected by Florida Department Of Education to implement a pilot program with middle schools students. This class is Information & Communications Technology - Essentials I (ICT) and it consists of fourteen seventh graders, ages 12 & 13. We are a member of the Microsoft IT Academy.

When I accessed Microsoft eLearning, I was so excited! I thought that the lessons were short, yet so in depth. I like how the modules are divided and the videos are very valuable, they are short (usually 2-3 minutes) and keep the students’ attention. The videos serve as a perfect tool for demonstrations and in teacher modeling where we implement explicit instruction (“I do”), guided practice (“We do”) and independent practice (“You do”). The test banks save a lot of time and has been great for preparing pre- & post exams for various units of study. We use Microsoft eLearning as a blended learning tool, along with other “go to” resources, such as GMetrix (for practice exams), other books and on-line resources for projects to apply and extend the student’s knowledge.

Currently, we have five 7th grade students certified in Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) PowerPoint 2010. Our goal to have every student in the class earn at least one certification before the end of the school year. We make sure our students are made aware of the benefits of having these computer skills and industry certifications. Our class motto is: “Each one, reach one, teach one.” Just as I reach out and teach them, they must reach other students and teach them. This is displayed in our classroom through the implementation of collaborative structures, such as, shoulder buddies, think-pair-share and peer tutoring. With continued teamwork, our goal will be accomplished!

As an incentive, we recognize and reward our students. We have a “Wall of Fame” in the hallway with names of certified students on wooden plaques w/ golden name plates. There is also a “certification” bulletin board in my classroom. Every student who passes a certification exam gets their name displayed on a paw. I send out announcements to our faculty and staff members so they can congratulate the students. This announcement is then put on our TV news, along with their pictures. At our annual Award Ceremony, the students will receive their official certificates. In addition to this, our class celebrates the accomplishments of those certified, because we realize that it is teamwork.

Florida Department of Education’s Microsoft IT Academy has provided our students with outstanding opportunities to earn an industry certification, preparation for college and careers, increased qualifications for successful employment, advancement for chosen career path and increased self-worth and self-confidence to achieve more. The certification isn’t the essence of the course…it’s the “icing on the cake.” The computer skills that these students learn will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

By the way, I am taking advantage of the free exam vouchers for my Professional Development to obtain MOS certifications. I also use Microsoft eLearning for my Computing for College and Careers students.

Learn more about Florida's statewide IT Academy program: Florida Statewide Microsoft IT Academy site

Read other posts from the Teacher's Perspective series:

Cathy Bradshaw graduated from Florida Institute of Technology, earning a B.S. degree in Business Administration/Finance and a Master’s degree in Business Administration.  She also has an A.S. degree in Computer & Information Science. 

Cathy began her teaching career as the founder and director of an academy, where she taught Pre-K.  In 2006, she started teaching Adult Basic Education & GED classes and received her Professional Educator’s Certification.  In 2011, she began teaching at Hamilton County High School, where she is the Business Education teacher.   Her philosophy is “Learning is a lifelong experience.”  She enjoys teaching…knowing that the knowledge gained from her classes will benefit students for a lifetime.