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. 

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.