WEISER — With a population of just over 5,000 people, the small town of Weiser will be sending a student to compete on a national stage, as Emberlee Thomas finished the Excel 2013 certification exam with the highest score in the state of Idaho.
Thomas, who will be a senior this fall, completed the certification exam with a score of 980 (there are 1,000 possible points and a score of 700 is needed to pass). The top test takers in each state are then invited to the U.S. National Microsoft Office Specialist Championship, which will take place in Orlando on June 17. Thomas was one of 2,465 Idaho students who took the certification test in the state of Idaho (across all classifications).
“I’m really excited to get someone from here to go to nationals,” Weiser High School business and computer science teacher Bernie Weldon said.
The MOS certification has exams for Word 2013, Excel 2013, PowerPoint 2013, Word 2016, Excel 2016 and PowerPoint 2016.
Thomas said she signed up for the Microsoft Word and Excel class in January and did it because she liked having Weldon as a teacher.
“I just really like his way of teaching and I wanted to have more classes with him,” she said. “And I know it can help me with job skills.”
Thomas said Weldon’s class was a major help for her in studying for the Excel exam.
“We used the Microsoft study guide,” she said. “We just practiced a lot and would work together as a class. [Weldon] told us why everything is useful in a job and why I would do it.”
Looking forward, Thomas said she wants to also take the Excel 2016 certification next year.
As far as jobs go, she said she wants to teach English (her mother, Marie Thomas, is a math teacher at Weiser Middle School) and also wants to spend time teaching abroad.
According to Weldon, this was the third year in which Weiser High School has offered the CTE Microsoft Imagine Academy. Weldon said the key in taking the class is that it allows students to not only master the products, but also gets them certified with something they can put on their resume.
“It takes kids from just learning the different office products and actually gets them certified in the products,” Weldon said.
The test itself is not just a multiple choice test, Weldon said. Students are given 50 minutes to complete upwards of 24 tasks through the program.
“It’s a project-based and task-based certification,” he said. “It’ll say, ‘Make this document do this.’ Or, ‘make this data into a chart.’”
Weldon said the pass rate is about 50 percent.
While there are a lot of people who use G Suite (Google’s products) to do work, Weldon said that being proficient in Microsoft Office products is still a valuable resource for people entering the job force.
“The majority of people are still using Office products,” Weldon said. “And if one wants to major in business at Boise State University, they will have to pass a Microsoft Word and Excel class. And they will accept the certification as labor for the class.”
Normally, there is a fee to take the Microsoft certification exams. But Weldon said the state of Idaho pays for the certifications as it is done through the school.