Sharing the Power of Microsoft Certifications

Students who earn Microsoft Office Specialist certifications have been shown to earn higher GPAs, graduate at a higher rate, and get higher-paying jobs. The Microsoft Office Specialist program also helps educational institutions raise the bar on their performance.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. We validated our beliefs with former educator Kathy Schmit. Kathy is a 10-year veteran teacher with 25 years of firsthand experience applying Microsoft products in the business industry. Kathy entered the Career and Technical Education field to prepare students for the rigors and realities of the work world. Having been passed over for workplace advancement because she lacked certification or college credentials, she understands the importance and value of certification.

Kathy will be the first to tell, in her enthusiastic manner, that certification matters! But above all else she will share with you and make you a believer that certification is for everyone! Check out our interview with Kathy to learn why she’s always working to share the power of Microsoft certifications.

Certiport: Kathy, thanks so much for sitting down with us.

Kathy: Of course! You know I’ll drop everything to talk about the power of certification.

Certiport: You’ve been a long-time advocate for certification. Why do you think certification is important?

Kathy: Certification of any kind is a massive employment advantage. For example, 91% of hiring managers look at certification as criterion for hiring. Microsoft certification is especially valuable because Microsoft is the most common productivity software in market.

I didn’t have much experience with Microsoft when I went to work, but it came naturally to me. One of the companies I worked for on work release in high school got their very first MAC PC and no one knew what to do with it. They said, “Aren’t you learning this stuff in school? Put it together and learn how to use it.” The rest is history.

Learning these skills had a huge impact on my career, and an incredible impact on the lives of my students. Self-confidence was one of the biggest benefits I saw. The self-confidence that comes from passing an adult, industry rated exam, skyrockets success in other areas of a student’s life. The power that a Microsoft credential holds is undeniable. I have student after student who were hired because of those credentials alone, sight unseen!

Certiport: Amazing! I know we’ve talked about a few of these students in past conversations, like Ashley Masters. We’re so excited that she’s been able to leverage these skills all the way to Microsoft! We know that you’ve worked with hundreds of certified students in your years of teaching. How are they using these skills?

Kathy: Certification helped my students in and out of the classroom. It allowed my kids to become better students. They are not frustrated by the tools and can focus on learning. They can focus on the content and study of the subject, instead of fretting on how to deliver the material they have learned.

I worked collaboratively with teachers in other subjects so that students could use lab time in my room to deliver a paper, presentation, or Excel spreadsheet for the content in that subject. It really brought a lot of power to the other courses as well. Teachers knew they could assign an MLA document, PowerPoint, or chart with Excel because students had learned those skills.

That said, my favorite application for certification is outside the classroom. My accelerated students were challenged to do something more with their skills, in connection with the FBLA Community Service event. They entered and decided to teach their Microsoft Office skills to adults in the community. We held paid classes at first, but then we took it a different direction.

My amazing group of young people decided they wanted to teach their skills to people who really needed them. They started at the Women’s Shelter in Longview, Washington; creating their own projects and taught a group of women. After they shared their skills, they procured laptops from the Washington State Fish and Game Recycle program, refurbished them, and secured donated Office licensing from a local business. After the women in the shelter passed their certifications, the students gave them each a refurbished laptop to take as a gift. It was incredible to hear their stories and the way those stories affected the kids was unbelievable.

Certiport: I love that your students were able to catch the vision and turned around to share that with others. How do you get your students that excited about certification?

Kathy: There are two things that I feel are important. First, pass the exam yourself! Being certified qualifies you to give advice and see the challenge the students are facing firsthand. Second, celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!! Celebration is BIG in my book and can be immediate and long term.

There are lots of different ways to celebrate your students’ success. Hoot and holler when a student masters a new task or passes their certification! Send emails home to parents with industry stats and compliments for their student. Make sure to include their accomplishments on the school website and bulletin. Create a “Wall of Fame” in your classroom, showing the certificates and names of all the students who pass their exams. I’ve even contacted our local paper to have articles written about my students. I love highlighting their success in school assemblies as well, since it gives good press for your program and great recognition for the students. These kids need to know how much we value the work they’re putting in.

Certiport: Such amazing ideas and I love that you use all your available outlets to recognize your students. Last question for you since you’re our resident expert. What advice would you give to fellow educators looking to build excitement for their certification program?

Kathy: Outside of the advice I’ve already shared, I would say focus on the “why” of certification. I have a presentation I go through prior to every certification. This takes a 50-minute class period, so it’s not a short discussion. I show them why Microsoft certification is so important. We watch a few testimonial videos, spend a little time on researching jobs related to Microsoft certification, and then play a final Kahoot game. This class session helps the entire classroom get on the same page, and helps my students stay invested even when it’s tough.

Interested in learning more from Kathy? Check out her full interview on CERTIFIED: Certiport’s Educator Podcast episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts.