Friday, November 10, 2017

It's Been Awhile

As I woke up this morning, I thought about how long it has been since my last blog post.  I couldn't remember, but just knew it had been longer than my original goal of at least twice a month.  This afternoon, I was reminded (in a very friendly way) that it had actually been since August!  That's way too long.
Then I thought: "Well, it's been a crazy busy year so far!"  But that shouldn't be an excuse.  It actually should be more of a reason to keep everyone up to date on all of the amazing things our kids have been up to.  So I thought I'd share a little time-line of the events we're proud of since the last time I wrote an entry here.
We had a LOT of fog in September, including on Student Appreciation Day, when we delayed 2 hours.  Undeterred, our staff and students put together one of the most successful Student Appreciation Days I can remember.  We had dozens of amazing vehicles in the car show, dancing, and a giant football/bowling hybrid game that I was legitimately terrible at.  My awful display of arm "strength and accuracy" was much to the delight of all the students around the game who, despite what they may say, were just as bad as I was!  But that didn't matter, it was perfect weather and our staff got to get out and show our appreciation for all of our students (even more so than they do every day).
Then, on September 29, Vantage once again hosted the United Way Day of Caring Food Drive in our bus barn.  Over 38,000 food items were sorted and quickly sent to the Van Wert food bank for distribution to those in need around our area.  Well over 50 of our students got to participate and contribute to an amazing experience which was "eye-opener" for many.
Then, just a few days later (on October 3), we hosted an induction ceremony for over 30 students into the Vantage Chapter of the National Technical Honor Society.  It was one of our biggest inductions ever!  Each of those students honored that night earned their place by maintaining over 95% attendance, good standing with zero discipline incidents, and over a 3.5 GPA throughout their time here at Vantage (not to mention a rigorous application process after being nominated).  You may see them in your communities throughout the coming months volunteering their time and sharing what Vantage and NTHS are all about.  If you need volunteers for an event in your community, please don't hesitate to call or e-mail me.  We will be more than happy to help!
Finally, our student ambassadors once again led the selling and placing of miniature American flags into a flag field (constructed by our carpentry and auto body labs) in honor of Veteran's Day.  100% of this year's proceeds will go to the Ottoville VFW, and we plan on continuing this tradition and donating to another Veteran's organization in one of our communities next year.
Which brings me to one of the coolest things I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing in my time in education.  Earlier this week, two of our Ag juniors approached me about the possibility of flying the American flag today (November 10) on their vehicles, in honor of Veterans and active duty military men and women.  My response was simple: as long as it is "street legal", we will never have a problem with students supporting our country and our flag in that way.  These young men then took it upon themselves to organize well over a dozen trucks, cars, and SUVs who could legally fly an American flag to school today.  Many of these vehicles met in the Wal-Mart parking lot here in Van Wert (thank you!), then proceeded as a group (almost like a parade formation) to drive to Vantage and park together along our back row.  It was, quite frankly, an AWESOME display of support for our Veterans.  The best part is that our students deserve all of the credit for putting it together.
Please watch for the video of all these flags leaving our parking lot on social media.  You will surely be impressed!
There has been so much more going on here at Vantage, it would be impossible to list everything (like our Network Systems team's 1st place finish in the Network Design competition at Makerfest). We also greatly appreciate your support in the recent election, and will continue to strive to maintain the Vantage Will (#vantagewill)!  Thank you for your time, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

#vantagewill

As the new school year begins, there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of things to be excited about here at Vantage.  We've got over 430 students in our building (almost 250 of which are in their first-year) and a brand new program (Criminal Justice) to go along with our 16 other programs which have already established a solid reputation for molding excellent employees and leaders in our communities.  To go along with this excitement, you may have also been seeing a new term being thrown around by members of our staff and our students on social media.  It's two simple words that, when put together, can mean so much more than the sum of their parts.  We've begun putting them together in a "hashtag" (or the number/pound sign to those of us who may be a bit out of touch, like myself) to try and share all of their potential meanings with everyone on the community.  Those words are "Vantage Will" (#vantagewill for those who have Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook).
#vantagewill, I'm told, is an English teacher's dream because of it's potential as a phrase.  It's a declarative statement in which we can tell you about all of the opportunities Vantage Will provide for you (or your son/daughter).  For example, #vantagewill provide our students with a safe and positive learning environment!  Or #vantagewill get our students college and/or career ready!  Or even #vantagewill help our students earn credentials that all industries will recognize and appreciate in their employees.
However, #vantagewill can also be a state of mind.  As in, when our students show the #vantagewill, they're showing a willingness to help others and be a positive contributor to their community.  Or a student's courage to leave an amazing home-schoool (which all of our home-schools are), great teachers, and good friends to come to Vantage and pursue their chosen skill shows they have the #vantagewill.
As always, this moniker was inspired by our students, and is modeled by our staff.  We see our students doing extraordinary things for themselves and eachother every single day.  Our idea is to share these stories with our communities using #vantagewill on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  We're encouraging our students to share their successes by using the #vantagewill.
If you're a former student, teacher, parent or just a Vantage supporter; we invite you to share what #vantagewill has meant in your life.  If you don't have social media, that doesn't mean you don't have the #vantagewill.  Share your #vantagewill story with a friend or neighbor (that's usually the most efficient and effective means of communication anyway, right!?).  
As I finish my thoughts, I'll share what #vantagewill continue to do for me.  #vantagewill provide me the opportunity to work with Juniors and Seniors to help them prepare for life after high school and I will always try to display the #vantagewill in overcoming any new challenges that come our way in this journey.
Thank you all for your time.  And if you're an organization or leader searching for volunteers or assistance on a project or initiative within one of our communities, please always remember that #vantagewill always be glad to help!  Have a great week and enjoy your Labor Day weekend.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Independence

We all know that the 4th of July is just hours away.  Right now, I'm hoping everyone reading this is enjoying time with their families, getting ready for a fireworks show, or maybe even participating in the Holiday at Home festivities right here in Van Wert!  Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the reason why all these awesome events take place each year on July 4th; America's Independence!
As a former United States Military History teacher here at Vantage, I can tell you that America's war for independence (AKA the Revolutionary War) was one of my favorite subjects to teach.  Even though my students had undoubtedly learned about many facets of the war from the excellent teachers at their home-schools, it always seemed to be one of their favorites, as well (test scores and detailed discussions would always prove that).
First, we'd study the build-up to the war with aspects like the "Intolerable Acts", the "Stamp Act", and all other forms of "taxation without representation" from King George III.  Then, we'd talk in-depth about the Declaration of Independence.  Finally, we'd get to the five-plus years of brutal fighting (not to mention cold winters in places like Valley Forge with very little to eat and a minimal supply of clothing and shoes).
Despite all of the interest in the hard-fought battles and technological advancements of the war that led us to the ultimate underdog story where a group of inexperienced "rebels" secured freedom from the most powerful (and tested) military in the world at the time; I always thought the most enjoyable discussions came from pieces of the Declaration of Independence.  Of course, all of my students were familiar with the Declaration and what it meant in the history of our country.  However, very few had ever really analyzed all of the words and their meaning up to that point in their educational careers.
We talked about how Thomas Jefferson (who was one of five men asked to draft a declaration, and the man whose submission became the model for the final document we all know today) seemed to repeat certain parts about how We, people from every "colony" within the United States of America, stand firmly together.  Many students were enthralled to learn about some of our other complaints against the King.  For example, the quartering practices which forced families to share whatever they had (including their homes) with British soldiers. accusations of an unfair legal system, and cutting off trade for many American businesses with the rest of the world.  Students were also quick to point out how Jefferson mentioned several times throughout the document that the people of the United States had tried to solve things peacefully, but had seemingly been rebuffed each time (which a lot of students successfully compared to diplomatic relations of today).  They realized very few wars have ever been started without trying to come to a peaceful conclusion first (which is exactly how it should be).
The most intriguing piece of the Declaration, however, would always come about when we'd study the very last line of the document.  It reads "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."  In simplest terms, that line basically states that all who were on board with this newly signed "Declaration of Independence" were pledging absolutely everything they had for Freedom.  They knew that if they were defeated, they not only stood to lose their lives and every cent they'd ever made (which would have been a LOT for most of the signers); but their family names would be tarnished forever.  That is a huge gamble and commitment to a country that was, at the time, just an idea.  But they still signed that Declaration.  Soon after, many more men, women, and families would join in for a cause that we're still enjoying today (over 240 years later).
This brings me to my final point about our Independence Day and being able to enjoy it with the ones we love.  There is another group of people who need to be thanked for always being willing to put personal beliefs and desires aside in order for our American idea of Freedom to be realized.  The men and women who have served, or are currently serving in the United States Military (with many Vantage graduates, staff, former staff, as well as family members of Vantage students, staff, and alumni included) have made the same courageous commitment those 56 signers of the Declaration made 241 years ago.  They have pledged their lives and their fortunes so that the rest of us could also enjoy this Independence our country was built on.  The only difference is, win or lose, their names will always be honored!
With that in mind, I'd like to express my sincere Thanks to all U.S. Military Veterans and Active Duty service members, and encourage you to find a way to do the same (not just on the 4th, but every time you get a chance).  To all Vantage alumni who have served or are currently serving, Thank You for representing yourself, your community, your school, and your country with pride.  Thank You for helping to keep our country the wonderful place it is.  Have a great and safe 4th of July everyone!
Special Thanks to Lt. Col Dominic Clementz (son-in-law of Vantage Educational Aide Nancy Keith) for having this flag flown in our honor during missions November 11, 2016 over Iraq and Syria.  Today, it flies proudly in our offices at Vantage Career Center.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer

Wow!  It's been awhile (almost 3 months now).  It's been a busy, but excellent, couple of months in and around Vantage Career Center.  I have learned a lot about the end of a school year and all of the work that goes into making sure our Seniors have everything they need to graduate, and the rest of our students get everything they need to move into that position next year.  As always, we're looking forward to all of the challenges that the 2017-18 school year is certain to bring along with it.
Before getting into that, though, I'd like to take a few moments to Congratulate the entire Class of 2017.  You've worked for 13 years, and put in AT LEAST 13,013 hours (based on the state minimums) of your lives preparing yourselves to graduate high school; and now you can officially say you've earned it!  As I told the Vantage seniors just a few short weeks ago, no one can ever take that away from you.  Be proud of that accomplishment, and use it to prepare for your next endeavor, no matter what that might be.
For Vantage, the next hurdle we're looking forward to is simply preparing for our next school year.  As a kid, I can honestly say I had no idea how much work actually went on in a school during the months of June, July, and most of August.  I'd walk back into school after summer break feeling like I never left (which was always comforting, in a way), and thinking the building pretty much just sat empty while the Principal talked on his phone and made out the schedule in his office all summer long...boy, was I mistaken!
Our maintenance staff is currently working each day to clean and reorganize every room, strategically maneuvering items throughout the building to ensure a safe and healthy start to the new school year, and repairing any items that may need fixing.  In a building as big, new (and impressive) as ours, that's a huge responsibility which takes a lot of planning, preparation, and hard-work to accomplish in the roughly 90 days of summer break.  So...to Dave Young, Tom Bowersox, Richard McKanna, Karen McGilton, and Penny Baucom...THANK YOU!
Our technology department is also hard at work "wiping" hard drives (I'm told that means they're clearing memory and storage space) in all of our computers, as well as installing new technological equipment in several classrooms and labs to help make sure our students have the best technology at their disposal.  When you're in a "Career-Tech" center, it's even more imperative that your technology is up-to-date and ready to go!  Again, this wouldn't be possible without hours and hours of effort from our technology department led by Stacie Leiter, Luke Compton, and Mary Ann Falk.  We've also got two "summer-tech" helpers who are Seniors-to-be in our Network Systems program.  Crystal and Willy; thanks for being willing to put in all of the hard-work so your peers are ready to rock and roll come August 21st...yes, that's almost only 2 months away.
Finally, there's an old myth that teachers get their summers off.  While that may be technically true, I'm always amazed at how much time our teachers spend in the building throughout the summer.  Whether it's working with their supervisors on standards, uniform orders, and scheduling; or tinkering with the set-up and signage around their rooms (when their room is available); our teachers really do come in a great deal to help make sure they're ready to give Vantage students everything they need when August gets here.
As the Director of the building, I've really come to respect the process of preparing for the new school year.  It's kind of like the eye-opening experience of being a first time parent around Christmas-time (or any other major holiday you and your family might celebrate together).  By that, I'm talking about that feeling when you realize how much time and effort it takes to make that "magical" experience happen for your child/children.  Our staff behind the scenes really does do a wonderful job of helping our returning students feel like they never left, and showing our incoming students there's nothing to be afraid of at their new school.  And that is one of the many things I appreciate today!  Have a great summer (which officially starts tomorrow), and enjoy the extra sunlight!

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Vantage Blood Drive...Driven to Help Others

Driven is a word that comes up a lot in our society.  It can mean many things.  However, in the world of careers and schooling, we often use it to talk about the motivation level of those we come in contact with.  Someone who accomplishes a lot without having to be told what to do is said to be driven.  To be driven is to also care deeply about your cause and the details surrounding it.
That brings me to what our Health Technology students and instructors have been working on with the American Red Cross for the past few months: the Vantage Blood Drive.  Mrs. Wendy Baumle, Mrs. Leigh Carey and their students from Junior and Senior Health technology have spent countless hours educating other students (and our staff) about the importance of donating blood, as well as setting up a schedule for all of our caring (and courageous) students who have chosen to donate.  The health technology students have also been volunteering and working to help the Red Cross with set up and implementation of the entire event.  I think it's appropriately called a "Blood Drive", because it's organizers are totally driven to provide a life-saving service for people with life threatening illnesses, diseases, and injuries.
You have to be pretty motivated to pull an event like this off.  It's been a lot of fun watching our volunteering students run their stations, interact with the donors, and help the Red Cross folks with anything and everything they possibly can.  It has also been a neat experience getting to see our volunteers turn into salesmen.  You see, even knowing how much a blood donation can help others in need, there are still some (like myself, unfortunately) who are unable to muster up the fortitude it takes to give blood.  While excuses (like my fear of seeing my blood in a bag outside of my body...I know, it's pretty weak) are tolerated by our students, they have not been afraid to continually try to talk me (and others like me) into giving blood anyway.  Some share all of the benefits that come from giving blood, while others share more personal stories about loved ones they've witnessed being helped by a total stranger's generous giving of blood, and yet others have tried flattery.  I heard one student tell one of our teachers that "maybe their teaching ability would be transferred through their blood...then we'd have another great teacher in the world".  If that's not a good sales technique, I don't know what is.  Either way, our Vantage students are not only giving their time, energy, and in many cases their blood; they're also sharing the opportunity with as many people as they can.
With that in mind, I'd like to send a big thank you to the American Red Cross, the Vantage Health Tech department, and all those who have given their efforts to putting together this amazing event.  It would also be remiss not to thank those who are brave/strong enough to be willing to donate blood at any time.  It really does make a difference.  Just one blood donation can help three different people.  As of now, it's only Friday morning at 10:30 and the Blood Drive has already collected over 100 units of blood.  I've never been great with math, but I believe that means the Vantage Blood Drive has provided blood, platelets, and plasma for over 300 people already.  That's another wonderful example of how our students are driven to help others in need.  Thank you again to all of those involved in bringing this successful event to Vantage each year.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Collision Science

Fender bender.  Backing into a fire hydrant.  Getting a little ding.  These are some of the ways people describe the minor car accidents that unfortunately happen all around the world every day.  If you've been driving for awhile now (in my case, over 18 years), you've probably been involved with one or two of these situations, and you probably didn't appreciate it very much when it happened.
One thing about these little accidents that I have come to appreciate, though, is the repair process and the men and women who are able to fix them.  I've had the opportunity to walk through Mr. Mike Villena's Auto Body lab on multiple occasions this year, and each time I become more impressed with the process and precision that goes into fixing every scratch and dent (or even a total body overhaul).
Today, I had the chance to walk through during the senior lab.  Each student pleasantly explained exactly what he or she was working on, and how they planned to finish it.  While I won't pretend like I can remember every piece of every step they showed me, I will never forget how much more work goes into it than I could have ever imagined.  For example, one senior was fixing a small spot on the bottom of a car door.  It was one of several issues she's fixing over the body of a Dodge Stealth (which happens to be one of my favorite car models of all time).  The time and care she was taking on that little spot made me realize that the entire car and all of it's issues were bound to take her hours and hours of lab time over the course of several days.
You can't simply "knock the dent out, and paint over the scratches" or "snap on a new bumper".
From what I have seen and heard, our students learn to check both the body and the frame to make sure there's not more extensive damage than what's on the surface.  They also learn how to disassemble the vehicle as part of the inspection process.  Once they are sure the damage is only to the outside of the vehicle, then they can get started on the multiple steps that go into repairing the body of a vehicle.
Now, this is where the "fun" part of knocking out the deeper dents comes in (smaller dents don't actually get "pounded out", according to our auto body juniors).  I put fun in quotation marks because there's usually a lot of skill, planning, and time put in to get the dents out and making sure the affected areas are back into working order when one is finished.  Next comes the sander.  If you're like me, you might be shocked that they would use a sander on the body of your car.  But according to our students, they need to get rid of all the paint and primer until all that's left in the affected area is the bare metal of the frame.  This will ensure that nice smooth finish eventually returns to your car.  Then comes what the students call "bondo" or body filler that will cover the affected areas and eventually "bond" with the paint (both the old paint surrounding the dent and the new coat that's about to go on).  The process of applying bondo requires a lot of patience and several different consistencies of sand-paper until the spot doesn't stick out.  Finally comes the very careful and precise application of the primer and (after the primer dries) the paint.
Oh, did I mention the dozens of steps our students must take throughout this process to ensure the health and safety of themselves and their fellow students?  Mr. Villena does an excellent job of constantly briefing and reminding his students to wear their masks, turn on the air filters, etc...it's quite the experience to witness and realize that this same undertaking goes into each and every imperfection on your vehicle.    
With that in mind, I'd like to thank Mr. Villena and his juniors and seniors for helping me find an all new perspective on collision repair.  It takes an awful lot of energy and effort to get it just right.  As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see the field eventually change names to Auto Body and Collision Science.  So, the next time you get a little "ding", I hope you remember this blog post and can appreciate the hard work and time that will be put into repairing it for you.  And if you happen to be from the area, chances are there's a professional working in your local body shop who learned these skills from Vantage...which, of course, means your car will be in great hands!
Thank you all for taking the time to read this week's post.  Have a great rest of the week!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Factors that Make Vantage...well...Vantage

When I was in high school, the word "factor" scared me half-to-death for two reasons: 1. Because it was usually accompanied by the word "problem" in Algebra.  2. It also made me think of Fear Factor...the show on NBC where people either did really dangerous or disgusting things to try to win $10,000 (or whatever the prize amount was).  Either way, it's safe to say I was never a fan of "factoring".   So, when I stepped into Mrs. Kelly Horstman's class last week and two of the first words I heard were "radical" and "factoring", I started wondering what I had gotten myself into.  If I wasn't good with regular factoring, how would I not embarrass myself with "radical factoring"!?
However, as the discussion got started, and Mrs. Horstman started going through the notes with her students; I realized that I wouldn't have any "problems" in this class (sorry, couldn't resist the pun).  I would never take anything away from any of the teachers I had the pleasure of learning from at Kalida High School roughly 15 years ago, but I can honestly say that if someone had explained the process of isolating radicals before solving the way that Mrs. Horstman did yesterday, I may not have feared factoring nearly as much as I used to.
I also can't say enough about the way the students were encouraged to work together and push through roadblocks as a class, rather than trying to figure everything out on their own.  One particularly tough problem really got my attention.  Without getting too in-depth, I'll just share that there was more than one correct way to arrive at the answer.  Instead of working through it herself, Mrs. Horstman had two students with varying ideas on how to isolate and break down the "Xs" work out their versions on the board, while she walked around and checked with other groups of students on which method they thought was correct.  In the end, both students at the board were correct, but one of the methods just needed an extra step before it would be ready to be solved.  Mrs. Horstman was able to explain why both methods worked, and all students seemed satisfied...until it came time to actually solve the problem.
Because of how the problem was set up, there were actually two possible answers.  "Were both correct?" several of us wondered.  From the discussions going on around the classroom, I wasn't alone.  Mrs. Horstman explained that sometimes Algebra gives you what she called an extraneous solution.  How do you figure out which is extraneous and which is correct, though?  That sounded extra strenuous to me.  Once again, she calmly put that in the hands of the students.  And, unlike me, they were able to respond!
"Plug them in!" Several of them said.
Sure enough, the students worked at their desks while Mrs. Horstman plugged both possible answers into the original equation on the board.  One solution worked, the other did not!  I was thrilled.  Not only because I' learned a new vocabulary word, but also because I felt like I understood the process of how we got to the correct answer.
Participating in classes like that, and seeing our students learn how to work together, discuss, and find their way through challenging situations is a huge "factor" in why I continue to Love working at Vantage Career Center.  Our students are willing to help each-other, and our teachers care enough to find unique ways to lead student collaboration in ways that allow them to learn as a team.
Have a great rest of the week!