For most students, knowing your way around Microsoft Office can help make writing papers for class easier. For West Point High School student Kyle Lemke, knowing the software has earned him a trip to Orlando in June.
Lemke, a West Point sophomore, will represent Virginia at the Certiport 2019 Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista in Orlando, Florida, June 17-19. Lemke received the honor after earning the highest certification score in the state for Microsoft Office Excel 2013.
A self-described math nerd who enjoys gaming and RPGs outside of school, Lemke said he’s been working with computers longer than he’s been attending school.
“I’ve been using computers since I was maybe 4 or 5, but I hadn’t started using Office or Excel until a couple of years ago,” Lemke said. “I like how there are different formulas and navigation shortcuts that make Excel easier to operate the more you know about the program.”
Lemke learned about Excel through one of the computer education courses offered at West Point High School, which offers students various computer certifications from Certiport.
According to Chris Milby, who teaches business and IT at West Point and has instructed Kyle in several computer courses during the past two school years, Kyle scored 942 out of 1,000 on his Microsoft Office Specialist Test.
“Kyle was in my introductory computer class last year, and his interest and ability for working with computers was immediately evident,” said Milby. “His scores were exceptional, but we were still absolutely stunned when we heard that he’d qualified for the national competition.”
Every year, Microsoft and Certiport host a competition for students across the country who take certification exams, with the top scoring student from each state competing for the top prize of $3,000. Lemke earned the top score in Virginia, making him the first student from West Point invited to the Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship.
Lemke, for his part, is quick to give credit for his results to his teachers.
“I learned a lot in class from Mr. Milby, he’s a very thorough instructor. We took a lot of tests throughout the school year and I didn’t even need to study before the certification,” Lemke said. “I’m glad to be doing this for my school and my state, and I hope I make everyone proud.”
Milby said that it’s been gratifying as a teacher to watch Kyle succeed, but also to see that the lessons about computers taught to students in his classroom are having an impact.
“A few years back, computer courses may have been looked at as a curiosity, but as technology moves forward they’ve rapidly become as fundamental to modern education as reading or arithmetic,” Milby said. “We live in a digital world now, and we need to prepare our students for that world as best as we can.”
That’s something David Daniel, director of Innovation and Technology Integration for West Point Public Schools, agrees with Milby on completely. Daniel says this is the latest indicator that the shift toward career and technical education in West Point has had a positive impact on students.
“Education is changing, not just here or in Virginia, but everywhere, and giving students real-world skills is critical to helping them in the future,” Daniel said. “One of the main things I’ve done here is work to transition the school from being focused on test scores to one where we look at real-world skills and student successes, and Kyle’s successes are a part of that, and one we’d like to see more of from our students.”
As for Lemke, while he’s excited to be competing in Orlando in June, he’s more focused on deciding just what he will do after graduation. As a sophomore, he still has time to decide. He admits he’s flexible about options from college to trade school, and says that wherever the future takes him, he hopes he can keep working with computers.
“I do enjoy working with computers and would like to keep learning about them and working with them in the future,” Lemke said. “The good thing about computers is that the more you learn about them, the more they can do for you.”
Lemke’s family has set up a Go Fund Me page at bit.ly/2GpOysK to help pay for his trip to Orlando.
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.