By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 4, 2013 1:46 PM
Charles B. Aycock High School freshman Todd Jessie places clip art on a page during Microsoft IT Academy. The program is offered at six public high schools in the county. Wayne County Public Schools leads the region in certifications earned by students since the program was introduced three years ago.
A Charles B. Aycock High School business class student tests different fonts as he learns word processing software.
In the three years since the launch of Microsoft IT Academies in high schools around the country, North Carolina students and teachers have earned more than 100,000 professional certifications through the program and Wayne County Public Schools has proven to be a leader in its development, school officials say.
Six of Wayne County's public high schools -- exceptions are Wayne School of Engineering and Wayne Early/Middle College High School -- offer an array of Microsoft courses that include Microsoft Word and PowerPoint among the options for students to earn training and attain certification.
North Carolina was the first state to enter into the agreement with Microsoft, said Erlene Brogden, director of career technical education for the school district.
"They wanted counties to volunteer," she said. "I nearly broke my neck getting up there."
Wayne County was among the 29 counties in the state chosen to introduce the pilot program. The classes replaced Computer Applications I. The program expanded in 2011 and is now offered statewide. It has progressively grown in popularity with both teachers and students.
"I know that the students are sincere in wanting to earn that certification. They do understand now that it helps them in the workplace," Mrs. Brogden said.
At the outset, the program was offered only at Spring Creek High School, where Microsoft-trained teacher Jennifer Tyndall has had students compete at the state and national level. She serves as a trainer both in Wayne County schools and at schools in surrounding counties.
The technology provides some of the most required skills students will need -- oral and written communication -- and crosses all occupational lines, Ms. Tyndall said.
"Microsoft Office is No. 3 on the list of most required skills and Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Word are No. 11 and 13," she noted.
"Microsoft Office is vital in our workplace, in our daily work," added Mrs. Brogden. "We all use Microsoft. Our teachers use it. We work together with it. I just can't imagine having an office with it.
"I can see the importance of it for the students. It doesn't matter what career they go into. They need it and not only in their careers. They need it at home."
The latest figures show the local school district excelling in the number of certifications produced.
Of the 19 school districts in the southeast region of the state, Wayne County ranks No. 1, with 3,462 certifications to date.
The technology program provides a great opportunity for students as well as teachers, Mrs. Brogden said, explaining that staff members have also been offered the option to take the training and receive certification.
"It's very exciting to see the state still support this and they're continuing to support it," she said.
In addition to the previous menu of courses, another program is being added to the mix.
"We're rolling out this year Adobe Academy," she said. "It's similar to Microsoft."
The news is even more impressive, she said, because of the price tag attached.
"It would cost us $17,000, sufficient for one class, but the state has worked with Adobe and we can purchase it for $14 per seat, so we purchased it for like $300 per school," she said. "We're offering it so far in the spring at Wayne School of Engineering and Goldsboro High School, and teaching it now at Rosewood High School."