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. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Good people's a month where many of us set out to make ourselves better through New Year's Resolutions.  There's even a new commercial from Special K about how we've turned January into gross health shakes and bad fish recipes.  Then, of course, it suggested eating their healthy Special K bars and whatever else they're selling would help you get started on your New Year's Resolution.  Having worked in television advertising for almost three years of my life, I would have to say this was an effective commercial (if you can remember the brand and the main message, it was a good commercial).  Anyway, it got me to thinking about my resolutions.
First, I resolved to get three work-outs each week.  I've  been doing better, but still have work to do.  I also resolved to drink less Mountain Dew (also a lot of work to do there).  As I was thinking about these, my amazing wife told me about a message her friend had posted on social media about simply wanting to be a good person, smile at people, and be willing to help when she sees someone in need.  As she shared this, I thought "How great are those resolutions?"  So, while my resolutions were mainly centered around myself and how to make myself a better person; this person was thinking about bettering both herself and those around her.  I immediately updated my resolutions...So, if you see me out and about and I'm not smiling, please feel free to call me out on it.  If you need help, please don't be afraid to ask!  And of course I'll continue to strive to be a good person in every situation.
Speaking of good people, I don't know if our Criminal Justice students also set some sort of resolution or not for 2018; but I do know we've got some REALLY good people in that program (and all of our programs, for that matter).  Case in point, today we had some issues with our building-wide recycling project.  Mrs. Heather Brickner and her students graciously gave their time and efforts to collect all of the recycling from every room in our building (and did an awesome job)!  But when they went to bring everything out to the bin, they found that it was gone (it was being emptied by the awesome folks at Van Wert Solid Waste Management).  Mrs. Brickner's students had dedicated their entire "Advantage Period" (normally reserved for extra help to our students in their academic or lab classes), and now had to get back to class.  I asked them to leave the recycling they'd collected in our dedicated Recycle Room, and I would find a way to get it out to the bin after it returned.  The end of the day was approaching quickly, though, and you all know what happens to a big pile of recyclables in an enclosed space overnight right!?
As I walked through the halls saying hello to a few students and classrooms, I heard Mr. Zach Miller and his Criminal Justice students heading into the high school office.  They were working on getting things ready before Sophomore Visit Day (which we're all very excited about for Friday, February 2nd).  In asking them what they were doing, I found that they had a few plastic items that they wanted to recycle, so I saw my opening and asked Mr. Miller if they might be willing to take what I called a "few recyclables" (I may have left out the word hundred somewhere in there) outside with them.  They saw right through me, and knew what I was asking.  It didn't matter.  They all smiled and said they'd be glad to help. 
The job was much bigger than any of us anticipated; but the kids all fought through a bad wheel on one of the carts, cold/windy weather, and a lot of loose cardboard to help get the recycling into the bin outside.  Of course, being our future law enforcement officers, I should have known they'd be willing to go out of their way to assist in any way possible.  Big thanks again to Mrs. Heather Brickner and her students, as well as Mr. Zach Miller and his students.  And a big thanks to ALL Vantage students for playing their part in making us what we are.  I know around 50% of our students have helped collect recycling over the past 2 years, and those that haven't have still made an effort to make sure they sort recycling from trash in whatever classroom/lab they might be in.  It really does make a difference, and really is appreciated.  I continue to be amazed by how professional these young men and women are in helping to make sure Vantage Career Center continues to be a beautiful,  environmentally (and socially) friendly place.
Whatever your resolution might be, keep those thoughts of being a good, smiling person who's always willing to help in mind.  If you need an example, just stop into the High School office Vantage sometime and I will be glad to help introduce you to  about 400 of them.  Have a great rest of the week, and help make someone else's week great while you're at it!

In my last post a few weeks back, I wrote about always finding the silver lining, and realizing that tomorrow's a chance for a new (and better) day.  Over the holidays, the Vantage family lost two wonderful recent graduates way too soon, and I will admit that it's been tough to find the positives in these situations.  However, one positive aspect I am certain of is that I am a better person from having taught/worked with both of these smart, caring and overall good people!  Both were extremely hard working, and lead by the example of their dedication and willingness to listen while doing all of the right things (for themselves and anyone around them who asked).  Thank You Marcus and Nicki for all that you meant (to Vantage, your families, your friends, and your communities), and all that you will continue to represent to all of us.  You are, and will always be missed!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Playing for "Tomorrow"

As you may know, I am a life-long San Francisco 49ers fan.  That was AWESOME when I was a kid.  My Niners were good almost every year, and won 3 Super Bowls that I can remember watching over and over again on VHS (students, you may have to ask your parents what VHS was).  Anyway, it hasn't been that way lately.  For the last few years, Mrs. Lisa Yearling and I have commiserated our fanhood on a weekly basis throughout the fall.  As loss after loss piles up, we've often just had to shrug our shoulders and eventually just say "there's always next year".  This year, that's been as evident as ever.  The coaches, management, and even some of the players are quick to point out that the 49ers are now building for the future.  They're certainly trying to win each game, but they're also playing a lot of inexperienced players in the process.  That doesn't always lead to wins in the short term.  What it does add up to, is more experienced players for future games.  More experience often leads to more success. 
Ok, so by now you're probably wondering what that has to do with Vantage Career Center?  Well, this time of year, when I ask kids how they're doing each morning, I tend to get a few more responses in the "I've been better" or "It's been a tough day/week" realm.  When I hear these responses, I like to say "there's always tomorrow".  For our students, that can certainly mean that the day after today will be better; but it can also mean that there's a bigger picture for every single student at Vantage.  "Tomorrow" also represents the future opportunities and experiences they are preparing for in their labs and academic classrooms.  Right now, many are facing challenges they've never been confronted with before.  Those challenges can bring frustrations, but each one also brings experience and a chance to gain new insight.  Even if what we learn is simply how to ask for help from the correct people, that's an invaluable skill I hope all Vantage students graduate with. 
Every time a student in Precision Machining writes a program that causes a "glitch" in the simulator, they get a step closer to writing the one that won't cause a glitch, and get them the part they're aspiring for.  Or (if you're like me), every struggle with a new concept in Algebra 1 (or 2, take your pick) is a chance to ask for help, see which step we're missing, and try something different to get it right.  I also realize that some of our students are facing real problems outside of school, as well.  These struggles are no different.  When we make a tough/possibly wrong decision (which we all will at some point), or something bad happens in our lives; there is ALWAYS something we can learn from it. 
As a quick example, one student recently came in and said he was "already having a terrible day".   Weather-wise, it was almost perfect outside, and being so early in the morning I had to ask what could possibly be going so badly already.  He told me had had gotten a speeding ticket on the way to school because he hadn't realized the change in speed limit in an area he wasn't totally familiar with.  While I tried to let him know that didn't have to ruin his entire day, it seemed like he had a tough time letting it go.  However, I've talked with this same student multiple mornings in the months since that speeding ticket.  Each time, when asked how his day is going, he's always had much more positive answers.  He says he still drives the same route to school each day, but he's learned his lesson and now pays closer attention to avoid that type of frustration in the future.  The result?  More good days!  Sounds simple, but it's a great example of learning.
My point is, like my beloved 49ers, we will all have our good days and our bad days.  No matter how hard we try, frustrations will creep into our lives from time-to-time.  We may not always "Win" in that moment.  However, as long as we work hard to replicate the good days, and make improvements to try and avoid the bad ones; we can learn a lot from both.
Hope to see you back in a few weeks for Christmas.  In the meantime, don't forget to enjoy the plethora of Christmas movies that have already started playing on many TV stations.  Have an awesome day and a great rest of the week! 

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


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


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


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. 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!