CertStudent: Teacher and students earn certifications together

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 CertStudent  is a regular feature that profiles students of all ages who are pursuing certification at schools, in training programs, and on their own time (and own dime). Know an interesting  CertStudent ? Share the details with us at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

It’s fall, and fall means football season. Just as a high school football team, full of unique players with diverse skills, must work together to win a championship, students in other disciplines sometimes team up to achieve a goal. That’s what happened over the 2013-2014 school year for a group of dedicated junior and senior high school students in Sterling, Ill. They didn’t have jerseys or mouth guards, but they did work together to achieve a goal that was bigger than any of the individuals.

Dana Fellows and his students are a certification wrecking crew.At the beginning of the year, IT instructor Dana Fellows set a goal for each of his students at Whiteside Area Career Center to pass at least one certification exam. Out of 50 students, 40 were able to pass at least one exam, with the group earning more than 60 certifications altogether. Many first-year students earned TestOut’s PC Pro and Network Pro cert, and about 10 of the second-year students also earned the Security Pro.

Each student got involved in Fellows’ IT classes for different reasons. Some students signed up with a specific goal in mind, while others just wanted to learn more about technology. Nathaniel, a senior, signed up for Computer Tech because he loves networking and computers. His eventual goal is to work as a network administrator.

During the long school year, the biggest challenge for Fellows was to gauge the speed at which all of his students would best be able to keep learning and working toward certification. “I have to keep challenging the high achievers, while making sure the more novice students don’t get behind,” Fellows said. That’s just one of the hurdles that teacher and students overcame on the path to more than 60 certs.

Collin, a senior, said that the best thing about working with computers is “the sense of accomplishment when a computer you’ve just repaired starts up perfectly.”

Before he became a computer tech teacher, Fellows had the opportunity to train teachers on how to use technology. At the time, he did not have a teaching certificate — but he did gain a love of teaching. “When the instructor position to teach computer technology came open at the Whiteside Area Career Center, I knew that I wanted to give it a shot,” Fellows said.

Dana Fellows and his students are a certification wrecking crew.And while Fellows may have high expectations of his students, he doesn’t ask more of anyone than he does of himself. Since settling on teaching, he has earned two master’s degrees and is also involved in teaching courses at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Ill. And Fellows pushes himself to stay certified at least as much as he pushes his students: He has MCP, MCSA, MCSE, A+, Network+ and CIW credentials, and is preparing to take the Security+ and CISSP cert exams in the near future. Not only that, but he’s also set out to earn all of the TestOut Pro certifications within the next year.

The star students of Team Fellows don’t just pile up IT certifications. Those who have attended his class for two years also earn 16 college credits, and a certificate from Sauk Valley Community College. These students are turning goals in real world IT skills, and it’s not about to stop.

With the 2014-15 school year already under way, Fellows’ students are staying busy and achieving one certification after another to reach a new goal: Once again Fellows hopes to have 100 percent of students get a cert. (Because he’s a realist, however, he’ll settle for 75 percent.) Austen, a senior, has earned TestOut’s PC Pro and Network Pro certs and is currently working on Security Pro, Linux Pro and the CompTIA trio of A+, Network + and Security+. For Fellows and his students, great things are ahead.

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Haylee Vallejo


Haylee Vallejo is a graduate of BYU-Idaho.

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