Watching MOS competition the high point of attending CertifiED
About this time last week, while players and coaches of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors were still settling into the feeling of being the champs, Certification Magazine witnessed the culmination of another journey fueled by passion, determination and a spirit of intense competition. Just hours after Stephen Curry and his teammates hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy, CertMag departed for sunny Orlando and the Buena Vista Palace hotel on the outskirts of Disney World.
The occasion for our visit was the first-ever CertifiED Certiport Educator Conference, held at the Buena Vista June 18-20. More than 100 educators from across the country gathered to talk about IT certification in their classrooms. Certiport is the official testing and training partner for the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification program, so the entire weekend had an MOS feel that was nowhere more pronounced than during the MOS U.S. national championship competition that crowned six students who will compete against MOS champions from around the globe at a world championship event in Dallas Aug. 9-12.
(To be clear: The Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship competition is now in its 14th year. The CertifiED conference, which is new this year, was held concurrently with, and at the same site as, the U.S. Microsoft Office Specialist National Championship, which funnels top U.S. competitors to the world championship event.)
More about that in a moment. The weekend featured seminars and workshops, including time spent bonding over team-building exercises like crafting a tower from (uncooked) spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. Ron Clark, the 2000 Disney Teacher of the Year and a New York Times best-selling author (his most recent book, published in 2011, is The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck — 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers), gave a spirited and energizing keynote address. Jet lag was evident at the occasional breakout session where this or that presenter valiantly battled an attack of the yawns mid-PowerPoint.
All of that is fairly standard stuff for attending conferences and conventions in the IT certification world. You sit riveted or engrossed through some presentations, and maybe surreptitiously eyeball your phone or phablet a few too many times during others. There are a lot of hands to shake and people to meet, business cards to tuck away in the side zip pocket of your laptop bag. Here and there you forge a connection that turns into a key work relationship or, even better, a long-term friendship.
What made CertifieED truly special, however, was getting a firsthand view of the determination and smarts of the best young Microsoft Office Specialists in the entire United States. Instructors frequently sneaked away from this panel discussion, or ducked out of that breakout session, to catch a piece of the action as students from across the country battled to prove their mastery of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The competition features separate divisions for both the 2010 and 2013 releases of all three products, so there were six champions to be crowned.
The excitement in the room during every competition was palpable, with students attacking the material with the poise and precision of world-class athletes. Every time a winner was announced, the declaration of victory would be greeted by loud and enthusiastic applause. And, at the end of the conference, there were six special students who will represent their schools at the 2015 Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship:
Michele Wu (Virginia Beach, Va.) — Microsoft Word 2013
Runners-up: Shayla Miller (Nashville, Ark.), Brooke Lampe (Lincoln, Neb.)
Joseph Halikos (Shelby Township, Mich.) — Microsoft Excel 2013
Runners-up: Ryan Decker (Orem, Utah), Thomas Lin (Columbus, Ga.)
Andrew Parker (Goddard, Kan.) — Microsoft PowerPoint 2013
Runners-up: Bennett Hunter (Lehigh Acres, Fla.), Max Fuhrman (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Ryan Catalfu (Cary, N.C.) — Microsoft Word 2010
Runners-up: Tyler Millis (Fort Myers, Fla.), David Fuerst (Bristow, Va.)
Ian Sexton (Fort Myers, Fla.) — Microsoft Excel 2010
Runners-up: Adam Duncan (Fairfax, Iowa), Ali Khan (Cary, N.C.)
Samuel Li (Sanford, Fla.) — Microsoft PowerPoint 2013
Runners-up: Andrew Dutton (Walla Walla, Wash.), Katie Tomasi (Cary, N.C.)
The inaugural CertifieED was a success, but these rising stars of IT certification made it truly memorable. It’s one thing to speak and write about the difference that IT certification can make in a committed person’s life. It’s another thing altogether to see the passion and excitement of that difference before your eyes. If they stick to this format, of holding the conference at the site of the U.S. championship each year, then Certiport is on to something truly unique and meaningful.