Bow down to the Master

Stadium HS student first to earn Microsoft certification

5/16/2017 | TACOMA, Washington

Can you create professional looking reports and newsletters in Microsoft Word, set up professional budgets in Excel and create sales presentations in PowerPoint? 

Stadium High School senior Brandon Fok can officially declare himself an expert in all of those tasks. He earned certification as a Microsoft Office Specialist Master for Microsoft Office 2016. That makes Brandon the first Tacoma Public Schools' student to achieve “Master” status on all Microsoft 2016 applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Access. 

​Stadium senior Brandon Fok works with his teacher Kim Muenz.
Proving mastery of computer programs like these sets students up for immediate and long-term success. According to a study by market research firm IDC Corporation, holding a Microsoft Office Specialist certification can earn an entry-level business employee as much as $16,000 more in annual salary than uncertified peers. 

Brandon earned his Microsoft certifications through the Microsoft IT Academy class at Stadium. The elective class fulfils one of two occupational education credits required to graduate. In the class, students learn advanced computer skills before taking official Microsoft examinations to earn certification.  

Because Tacoma Public Schools partners with Microsoft on multiple projects and initiatives, students enrolled in the Microsoft IT Academy class can take the certification exams for free. If they pursued Microsoft certification on their own, it would cost $96 per exam. Students take separate exams for each Microsoft application.

“It doesn’t hit them until after they graduate how much money they saved and what kind of opportunity was provided for them,” said Kim Muenz, who teaches the Microsoft IT Academy class at Stadium. 

Foss and Wilson High Schools also offer Microsoft IT Academy. In total, 239 students—and counting—have earned certification in at least one Microsoft application. 

Students like Brandon who earn Microsoft certifications also qualify to receive college credit. Many colleges provide credit for each certification earned. 

After graduation, Brandon plans to enroll at the University of Washington Seattle and study computer science. He’s not sure yet exactly how his Microsoft Office Specialist certification will help him but expects to use Microsoft programs—or ones similar to it—often and feels confident with his skills. 

Brandon’s favorite certification to earn? Excel, because it offered the most challenge. 

“There are a lot of aspects to Excel that are similar to coding, like using 'if-else” logic,'" Brandon said. “I’m good at math, and I like problem-solving. In coding, you start coding and then you run into a problem and you fix it, but then you run into another problem. There’s always problems to fix.”

Brandon learned about computer science from the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science he took last year at Stadium and from his own research.  

His teacher says that while he might not fully recognize the scale of his accomplishment, the certification he earned deserves high praise.

“This is huge!” Muenz said. “He had to pass five certification examinations to reach this level of accomplishment. When he goes into a job interview in whatever capacity and goes in with that knowledge, I think anyone is going to want him on board.”

Brandon and other students in the Microsoft IT Academy classes at Stadium, Wilson and Foss High Schools learn daily—and take their examinations—on computers provided by voters who approved a $10 million technology levy in 2014 to fund student and teacher computers and infrastructure.