Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How We Respond

"We can't control what happens to us.  What we can control is how we respond!" There are all kinds of sayings like this.  Most times, no one really knows where they come from, but almost everyone has heard them.  I'm sure we have all heard the words above in one way or another thoughout our lives.  I know I have, and I've had that conversation with dozens of current and former students over my nine years here at Vantage.  Though many have probably never really thought about the meaning of that phrase, it is one I try to live by every second of every day.  Take a minute to think about how many opportunities you get each day to respond in a positive way...

OK, I'm willing to bet you've left out a couple hundred.  You might wonder how that's possible...Well, let me give you a few examples.  When my alarm went off early this morning, I had an opportunity to wake up in a bad mood, or get my day started with a smile (do your best to consciously start every morning with a smile).  Then, I had a choice of whether or not to brush my teeth (in case my wife is reading, of course I chose to do just always).  Next, I had to choose how to wake up each of our three beautiful kiddos (three more decisions).  Do I go in and try to rush them out of bed, nagging about how we can't be late again?  Or do I run in and sing/act silly and try to make sure their days start with a smile, the same way my parents used to for me almost every morning?  It obviously had a lasting effect on me, so I always TRY to choose the latter.  As any parents out there will tell you; happy kids usually equal happy parents.  It doesn't always work, and this morning was no exception.  Our son Trey wasn't exactly in a glorious mood.  He's a lot like his dad and would really prefer to sleep in like he had for his entire Thanksgiving break.  However, that was another chance to tell him about the fact that he was going to get to see all of his buddies and teachers today at pre-school.  While that helped him get a little more excited, I'd be lying if I said that totally changed his tune.  He was still a bit grouchy, but with each gruff reaction came another try at changing his attitude.  My point is, we were 20 minutes into our day and I can count a couple dozen chances I had to respond.

At Vantage, our teachers and staff members all embrace these opportunities as well.  As I've said before and will likely say a few thousand more times, this is a great place to be.  Another reason for that is because our staff understands how important positive reinforcement and reactions are.  We may not be able to turn every student's "tough day" into a great one with each smile or word of encouragement, but that doesn't mean we'll stop trying.  While I can honestly say ALL of our staff members try to brighten our students moods at every corner, two of our teachers who really exemplify this attitude are our Junior English teachers Mrs. Ratliff-Dotterer and Mrs. Yenser-Hammon.  Whether you've been a student of theirs or not, you likely know you won't get too far past their rooms with a gloomy look on your face.  Sometimes, students just can't help but smile at whatever decorations they have on/around the entrances to their rooms at the time.  Other times, they'll stop and ask a student (or staff member) if everything's OK and just start a conversation which eventually leads to at least a grin.  And still there are other times when the two will team up and recite lines from a book, poem, or even a movie they know.  Even if the student doesn't find it funny at first, these two will stick with it until he or she can't help but laugh along with them.  "Mrs. Rat-Dot" and "Mrs. Y" could easily choose to just let the student go on with their day and know that eventually things would probably get better, but they choose to try to be part of the solution.  When they see the possibility, they respond.  I can tell you there are countless current and former students who will never stop appreciating that!  That's just one example from one small portion of our building of the ways in which our teachers try to help form good and healthy responses to the potentially challenging experiences our students face at times in their lives.  This shows by the number of siblings and (for our more experienced staff members) children of former students we see enroll and attend each and every year.

That's not to say there won't be some tough learning experiences along the way, though.  A huge part of our job is helping our students grow and learn from the times when they may not respond so positively to the challenges in front of them.  I always use the speeding ticket analogy.  I may not like the fact that my driving got me pulled over and earned me a speeding ticket.  However, I can appreciate that the lessons I've learned from paying those fines will save me money in the future, and has potentially saved lives in the process.  The same goes for our students.  Though students may not immediately appreciate things like make-up work and points lost if they miss too much school, our goal is to help them understand and eventually embrace the fact that those consequences may help them respond in ways that help them keep great jobs in the future.  Every experience can be a learning experience.  We have hundreds of chances to react each day to what life throws at us.  While none of us is perfect, and we are bound to make mistakes in the way we handle things from time to time, it's important to remember even the reactions we may wish we could take back are helping us inform our future decisions.  Maybe that's where the saying "No regrets" came from? 

Hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving and are getting as excited as I am for Christmas and the holiday season!  Thank you for your time!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Colder Weather

Well, fall has officially been here for almost 3 weeks, but the real fall weather seems to be on the way by this Thursday.  To some, the crisp air will be a welcome change from the humidity and heat that seemed to be constantly around for the past 4 months or so.  Others, though, will undoubtedly be wishing for just one more day to enjoy the pool, lake, pond, or amazing splash pad over at Franklin Park (or wherever their favorite spot might be).  I'll give you one guess as to which of those two realms I "fall" into.
The Zac Brown Band has a great song about "Colder Weather".  One of the lines simply says "I wanna see you again...but I'm stuck in colder weather".  At Vantage, it seems to be kind of the opposite sentiment.  As the weather gets colder, we start to see more and more of our recent graduates again.  Whether it be from their first tours of duty in the military (Thank You all for your service!), or on quarter break from college, or even on a rare day off from their new careers; we begin welcoming more and more into the building every year around this time (we prefer a call ahead, or for these visits to be before or after school, just to make sure these students can spend more quality time with the teachers they know and love). 
When these young men and women come back, it's such an awesome opportunity to catch up.  Mrs. Ellis and I are usually fortunate to be the first to welcome them back as they check in at the front office.  I truly enjoy hearing about how each is doing, where they are working, and what they've been up to since graduation.  Many times, the conversation brings up how Vantage has helped them in their current career, and sometimes they'll even share appreciation for the fact that Vantage was where they met the person they're spending the rest of their lives with.  Either way, we truly appreciate the opportunity to hear their stories and learn from them (trust me, we almost always learn something great). 
These visits are also a perfect reinforcement for our current students to see that what they are doing can (and will) pay off if they keep following the correct path.  Inevitably, when these graduates come back and talk to their former teachers, their successes will get back to the current students and can help provide motivation.  For example, a recent graduate stopped in a few weeks back driving his BRAND NEW vehicle (I won't mention the make and model, so as to not give this person's identity away, but it was a very nice vehicle), and several of our students noticed and asked about it.  It was a perfect opportunity to share how this particular student had just recently graduated from Vantage, and was using the exact skills he had learned from his program to earn the wage that helped pay for that car.  That's just one example of many where current students recognize the successes of former students.  Those little reminders of why students are here can provide a lot of motivation to continue pushing through the challenges they're sure to face while learning their trade and finishing high school.  It may seem small, but every positive example is another reason to keep working hard.
So, to ALL Vantage graduates, please continue sharing your successes.  Our current and future students will continue to benefit from every single one!  If you're a "not-so recent" graduate and would like to come back and see how much our building has changed over the years, please give us a call!  If you're a more recent graduate, please still give us a call and set up a time to come back and share what you've been doing!  And if you'd just like to share what the #vantagewill has done to positively impact your life, please continue to do so on whichever form of social media you might prefer.  As the colder weather approaches, these triumphs and accomplishments (from former and current students) will help provide the warmth we all need from time to time. 

Friday, September 14, 2018


Fog...some students love it, some hate it.  As an administrator at a career center (one of the top career centers in the state according to the 2018 report card data, mind you), I can tell you it makes life more difficult some mornings in the late summer/early fall.  I'm also trying to remember how I felt about it when I was a kid, but my memories are a bit hazy (sorry, couldn't resist).  Anyway, with all of the fog clouding things up over the past week, it got me thinking about the "fog" many students see when starting to look toward their future after high school. 
It's one of the aspects I LOVE about being at Vantage.  Career Technical education has a unique place in our education system.  Many of our students have rolled right through that fog and know exactly where they are heading.  That's why they chose to come to us.  It's such a rewarding feeling to talk with students in Ag who have wanted to work on tractors since they were kids on their family farm, or those that just love computers and couldn't be more excited to gain certifications and learn more about how they are connected in Network Systems (or how to use them to create AMAZING projects in Interactive Media).  More recently, we've also had students who just know they want to be in law enforcement or the military.  I literally saw/heard sophomores at several home-schools applaud when Mr. Knott introduced Criminal Justice as a new program a few years back.  All of our programs have amazing and fun instructors leading several students who just know that's exactly what they want to do in life.  Those students are a huge part of why career technical education is such a valuable tool across America. 
However, just as the fog can sometimes come rolling back into an area where we thought it had lifted, many students still experience a bit of haze after they get to Vantage because they still just aren't quite sure what they want to do when they graduate, so they want to learn more about the program they've chosen.  This is natural, and Mr. Fisher and Mrs. McConahay (our school counselors) are two of the best in the business at helping kids increase their visibility on the road to their life after high school.  One of the other great advantages of career technical programs, though, is that students can get a great deal of information on so many different career options before even thinking about higher education.  You might wonder why that's so important to students and their families.  To explain, I'll share a quick story.
When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a sports broadcaster (OK, I dreamed of being a star basketball player first, but realized somewhat early in my junior high career that I was much more likely to have the talent of a professional "caller" than a "baller").  Anyway, I got through high school at Kalida and decided to go into broadcasting at the University of Dayton (Go Flyers).  I went through 2 years (which, as you can imagine, were not free) before a mass media teacher showed us a video on what the "ins and outs" of broadcasting really entailed.  After that video, I immediately went to my advisor and switched my major to communications management.  Eventually, I decided to go back again and get my teaching license, and it was quite obviously the best decision I've ever made. 
Anyway, my point in sharing that story is that it took me two years of college tuition to realize I wasn't really as passionate about broadcasting as I thought I was in high school.  Talk about a major fog delay, right!?  Now, I'm certainly not out here advocating against students going to college and furthering their education after high school.  Quite the opposite, actually, as every program at Vantage offers and encourages connections and opportunities for further learning or training.  We wouldn't be able to survive without it, and I know I wouldn't be the person and educator I am without my college experiences.  What Vantage and career technical education in general does is allow high school students the opportunity to learn a great deal about multiple career fields, and get the hands-on training it would take to succeed in those fields.  This simply gives these students the opportunity to be more informed and prepared to make the right decision about their plans after high school, whether it be higher education or the work-force.  That feels like a win-win-win for schools, families, and students.  You see, one way or another, at Vantage and career technical education; we are going to do whatever it takes to help our students navigate safely through any fog they might encounter on their way to a great career.   Thank you all very much for your time, and have a great weekend!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Win the Day

There is a sign in one of the work-rooms here at Vantage that says (I'm paraphrasing) "No matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day.  Move forward and take advantage of your new opportunity."  That sign comes in handy from time to time when a day doesn't go as I may have hoped or expected.  Heck, it's the main reason I continue to watch my Cincinnati Reds almost every game.  While their record might not be the greatest this season, they haven't given up (just ask the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers), so why should I?  Each day is another chance to "win".  No one will "win" every day, but it's a lot more fun for everyone if we try! 
Whether it be a workday where it just seemed like nothing went right, or a challenging night at home with the kids, we've all had our fair share of tough days.  I know what you're could a house with a 3 year old, 2 year old, and 4 month old ever have challenging nights!?  And you're absolutely right.  I enjoy EVERY night at home with my wife and kids.  However, as I'm sure most parents can attest, some of the nights just present slightly different attitudes and situations from time to time.  For example, you might imagine that a 3 year old and a 2 year old might have their difficulties getting along.  And again, you'd be imagining correctly.  However, there are a lot of times when they do get along.  As a parent, those times are SOOO rewarding.  They make me feel like I'm doing something right as a dad (speaking of which, a very Happy belated Father's Day to my dad and all of the dads who have helped us all every step of the way!). 
When my kids are getting along, my wife and I often will even say things like "Look how well they are sharing!" or "I love listening to them run and laugh together!"  Those proud moments might even allow us to "relax" a little bit and give some much deserved attention to our 4 month old.  As we're quickly finding out, though, relaxation in those moments can often lead to those "How did this happen?" moments shortly thereafter.  Like when you find a pile of a sparkly substance on the floor of the pantry and two of the sweetest little kids in the world pop their glittering/sticky faces in just as you've found the mess to say "We found the sugar!" (in the cutest voice ever, mind you).  You can't help but laugh as you think about the new mess that's certain to be tough to clean up.  Anyway, I digress.  The point is, sometimes we have days/nights where those little messes and accidents happen seemingly over and over again.  After a few of them, it can become frustrating and we start to think about other "messes" we might be looking at in our future, or what we could or should have done to prevent them.  To a point, this type of reflection can be a good thing! 
I try not to focus on the messes, though.  I try to focus on not only the lesson my wife and I can hopefully teach our kids about being more careful and "Never going into the pantry without asking mom or dad"; but also on the positives to take away from the situation, like the fact that our kids played and laughed together for a half-hour without fighting, or that they ran to the broom closet as soon as they heard us say the words "clean up" (they may not have helped much, but the thought was there).
You have to find the good things in life.  They're not always going to jump out and introduce themselves to you, but they are always there.  The challenges are there to make us stronger and help us appreciate the good times even more.  With just under 2 months before our students return, I hope the Vantage classes of 2019 and 2020 are getting more and more excited about the challenges and opportunities that await them starting August 20.  These students will come to us from many diverse backgrounds, and will have all faced very different obstacles along their paths to Vantage.  Considering the amazing track records of each of our home-schools in helping students navigate these paths, I'm certain our new students will come prepared to treat each day as the new day it is, and our staff definitely looks forward to helping them take advantage of every opportunity! 
Vantage will focus on the assets that make each of our students unique, while building on the lessons we'll learn together to enhance skills and prepare you for success.  While each of us may not "Win" every single day (like the Reds have been recently...again, sorry to all Tigers and Cubs fans reading), I sure do look forward to trying with our new group of young people!  Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July (be sure to say a big Thank You to all active duty military, veterans, and their families for the freedoms they've earned for us), and have a FUNomenal rest of the summer.  See you in August! 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mother's Day

As May 13 approaches, I hope everyone has a game-plan in place for how they are going to show appreciation to their Moms for all of the wonderful things they provide for our lives.  Whether it be taking her out to dinner, buying a special gift, flowers, spending some quality time, or a combination of all those things; please make sure to let your mom know how important she's been in making you the person you are this weekend!
I know I wouldn't be anywhere near who I am today without my mom (love you, mom!).  She's one of the strongest people you'll ever meet, while also being selfless and caring to the point where I used to wonder how she ever sticks up for herself.  Then, I realized that my mom shows her strength through the ways she cares for others.  She doesn't need to "put her foot down" to get her way.  She gets everything she needs through what she does for everyone around her.  Whether they appreciate it as much as they should all of the time doesn't really matter to her.
That's not to say she couldn't be strict when she needed to be.  In fact, some of her favorite stories to tell stem from incidents that earned me a lot of time in the corner as a child.  She always tells people that I spent more time in the corner than the rest of my four siblings combined, and I don't doubt that one bit.  However, when she disciplined us, she was also always quick to explain WHY she had to do what she did and help us understand why whatever we had done was wrong.  She also helped us understand what we could do better the next time.  My brother, sisters, and I have discussed many times how much we appreciate the way our mom dealt with us growing up.  It's been a huge influence on pushing us down a good path and making positive choices.   
When we do the right things, and make the correct decisions in life, I know THAT'S what gives my mom fulfillment.  She truly loves her kids (and now grandkids), and it shows.  I don't think I've ever heard my mom "brag" about anything she's personally done (even though she has a lot she could brag about).  However, she definitely likes to share her kids' and grandkids' successes, and always asks the right questions to keep us talking about the accomplishments we're proud of.  For example, when I tell my parents (which happens a lot) about something great our students are doing (like Mock Interviews, Welding projects, building roller coasters in Mr. Joyce's class, or earning all kinds of credentials); she may not always understand exactly what I'm talking about, but she ALWAYS finds a way to ask a question that leads me to explain how it will help them later in life or why they are completing a certain task.  That way she can more accurately share our stories with our extended family and friends.
Thank you, Mom, for always being an amazing person.  No matter what's going on around you, you've always been (and will continue to be) a steady and positive rock for all of us to lean on!
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention my wife, Erica.  Both of us dreamed and wondered what it would be like to have kids for years before that dream finally came true when our son Trey was born March 3rd, 2015.  Since then, we've had over three years (and two beautiful little girls) learning how to be parents together.  I can't tell you how much easier she's made my learning transition, though.  When it comes to parenting while she's not home; sometimes I feel like the student who works REALLY hard, does the homework, and studies for the test; yet still can't find a way to get better than a C.  Erica, on the other hand, Aces every test and makes it look easy.  She just knows what to do, and how to care for our kids in such an inspiring way.  She's definitely the great teacher (like ours here at Vantage) who works with me and brings me up to get that "A" in parenting, and I know it will pay off more and more as our children continue to grow.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to sincerely Thank the Moms here at Vantage (including staff members, and mothers of our students).  Our students wouldn't be the kind, thoughtful, and motivated people they are without Moms like you.  Vantage is a great place to learn and work in part because you care, and are driven to do whatever it takes to help your son or daughter succeed.  Keep up the good work, and enjoy yourselves this weekend (and try to find a little time to do so every day).  You deserve it!  Please make sure you show your Mother how much she's meant to you this weekend (and every other weekend too)!  Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Seniors...Countdown?! Yes...Countdown to more amazing accomplishments!

A few weeks ago, Vantage Career Center inducted our 3 newest members to the High School Hall of Fame.  Mr. Anthony Nighswander, Mr. Jeff Schulte, and Mr. Shawn Herr all joined a group that is now nine strong and consists of some of the best and brightest in the 41 year history of our school.  These three men have earned every accolade through their devotion to their careers, communities, and the students of Vantage (past, present, and future) for years since their graduations. 
I would like to personally congratulate and thank all three of these new inductees for everything they have done (and will undoubtedly continue to do) for us here at Vantage.  It takes a special person to dedicate him/herself to their passion, and it takes an even more special person to continue to do so long after they no longer need to.  That is my challenge for our Seniors who are now less than one month from graduation.  Despite the myth of "Senioritis", I know our young men and women will complete their high school careers strong and show the #vantagewill to finish!  They've already demonstrated a willingness to help and lead in efforts to strengthen our local communities through volunteer efforts like Toss-a-Toy, Christmas in Kalida, Day of Caring, Relay for Life, Bloodmobile, and countless other fundraising efforts through their labs and clubs like Interact, Student Ambassadors, and National Technical Honor Society.  In all, this senior class has helped raise over $20,000 for our local communities and charities.  Not to mention the hundreds of hours of their time donated to these causes.  They've responded to every challenge we've given them.
Now I'm asking them to consider one more: be willing to come back and "pay-it-forward" to future Vantage students and our communities.  For example, 2017 graduate Cooper Clouse (Precision Machining from Parkway High School) will be coming back this summer to help us run our first annual Vantage Summer Camp.  The camp is designed to show 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from all of our local communities what Vantage is all about, and what can be accomplished in our labs.  It truly is an awesome opportunity, and it wouldn't be possible without local business supporters, our staff, and Vantage alumni like Cooper. 
Even if you can't volunteer a lot of time, don't be afraid to call or stop in and see how things are going.  Keep us updated on what you've been up to, and where you're working.  We truly do care, and often those conversations will lead us to new ways to improve our programs based on the knowledge built through your experiences in the workplace.  Every bit of information you share can help a future student.  Oh, and just because you graduate, that doesn't stop us from being teachers!  Chances are, we might still be able to help you find resources and continue to learn long after you walk out of our doors as a "Vantage alumnus".  And there's 100% chance we will always love to do anything we can to assist. 
Seniors...I know none of you are counting down, so I'll let you know there are officially 18 days left in your careers as a Vantage student.  There are also thousands of days and millions of ways you'll continue to be part of the Vantage family!  Let's enjoy the rest of the school year.  Thank you all for your time, and have a great week!  I'll be back in a few weeks to talk about more of the great things our students are accomplishing through the end of the school year.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

March Gladness

Well, it's that time of year again.  One of my favorites.  Everyone is preparing and filling out that all important paper that's going to help them have a great weekend...yes, it's the end of the 3rd quarter here at Vantage Career Center.  Wait, did you think I was talking about the NCAA Tournament and the brackets!?  I DO love watching the drama of the NCAA basketball tournament with my friends every year, but here at Vantage we've got a lot of reason to believe this season is March Gladness. 
For example, we've got two wonderful people who are about to embark on new and amazing opportunities in their lives.  Mr. Pete Prichard, who has been at Vantage for roughly 18 years in Adult Education (10 of which were spent as Director) will be moving on to a great opportunity to continue working with young people and help them find their path to education through Northwest State.  I just hope Pete knows that he will be missed, and I appreciate the time and effort he's put into helping make career technical education what it is (not only in the Van Wert area, but around the state).  Thank you, Pete.  And good luck!
Next, Mrs. MaryJo Wilhelm will be beginning her journey into retirement this July.  Rather than count all of the ways I am thankful for MaryJo's help over the years (I would literally be here for hours), I will direct you to Mr. Fisher's blog which sums up what she has meant to our district for many years.  Even though I joke with MaryJo that she needs to stay for a few (12 or so) more years, I know that I will personally miss her caring and understanding way of interacting with each and every person she comes in contact with, as well as her unflappable patience and will to plan for then push through any obstacle that might be thrown in her way (like rain on Student Appreciation Day, or bad weather on picture day).  Mrs. Wilhelm and her ever-present smile have been one of the brightest of the bright spots Vantage has ever had (and again, there are millions of them!).  Mr. Fisher's post is linked below.   If you haven't had the chance to read it, please take the time to do so.  It is extremely well-written and you will not be disappointed (you may even shed a tear). 
Not only do we have staff members beginning new journeys, but our Seniors are also getting closer to graduation and the next chapter of their lives.  Very few of them are willing to admit that they have less than 45 days left in their High School careers.  Some are excited...some are nervous...but ALL of them will be ready!  And part of how I know that fact is because we have such a fantastic community of supporters, teachers, administrators, and employers who are willing to put in what it takes to get them ready.
Proof of that can be seen when you see the response we got for our Senior Mock Interview day on March 1st.  On the day where our Juniors were required (by state law) to take the ACT test, all Vantage seniors were required to come in and participate in a mock interview with an employer or professional from their chosen career field.  We had over 30 local interviewers, as well as our entire staff, chip in to make the day perfect.  Our Seniors had the opportunity to get honest and immediate feedback on their interview skills from some of the professionals who may end up interviewing them "for real" in just a few months.  Several of the interviewers have even asked for permission to contact a few of the students they had for mock interviews about the potential of coming in for the real thing over the next few weeks.  That's what career tech is all about!  Those interviewers deserve our greatest Thanks and appreciation, as does our entire English department (for helping students create cover letters, resume's, etc) and Mrs. Mary Ann Falk (for basically organizing the entire event).  If you think this is an awesome opportunity (you're right) and would like to know how your company can participate next year, please don't hesitate to give me a call or e-mail. 
So, even though my alma-mater (the Dayton Flyers) missed out on "March Madness" this year (Ohio State DID make it in...GO BUCKS), the reasons I have to feel the March Gladness are too numerous to count!  Our students, staff, and community have once again proven they have the #vantagewill! 
Thank you all for your time and support.