Like most teachers, Auburn Mountainview High School’s Patricia Eckelman wasn’t thrilled about distance learning – especially her Microsoft Office Specialist class. However, there was one highlight of the school year, coaching two students, in the Microsoft Office Specialist National Online Championship.
To participate in the championship, students must submit their Microsoft Office Specialist exam score during one of the two qualifier rounds. Top students from these qualifier rounds are then invited to represent their state at the U.S. National Microsoft Office Specialist Championship.
Two of Eckelman’s students, Quynh Vo and Alejandro Espino-Cebrero, placed in the Microsoft Office Specialist National Online Championship. Vo placed first in Microsoft Word 2016, and Espino-Cebrero placed second in Excel 2019. Both winners received cash prizes, a trophy, and either a Surface GoPro or an Xbox One X.
The annual competition tests students between ages 13 to 22 on specific skills for one of six Microsoft Office Programs. The programs skills are tested for are Word, PowerPoint, Excel for 2016 or the Microsoft 365 app and Office 2019. All competitors are tested in a proctored lab on their respective exams in the national competition.
While both students have placed consistently in the same competition for the past three years, nothing is ever certain. In addition to competing against college students, participants can’t compete in the program they previously have.
“I’m in my 30th year of teaching and I still go through the same emotions of being nervous when they announce [the finalists] but I get to cheer them on like their cheerleader teacher,” Eckelman said.
Vo said she had no idea what to expect when the winners were announced.
“I was definitely shocked—there were several times where I was thinking that if I could manage to do this during the competition and testing, there were probably others who could too,” Vo said. “At the same time, I was really happy and excited but doubtful since I kept wondering how the results would change if the competition wasn’t virtual—it was sort of like imposter syndrome.”
Vo is already looking forward to the Microsoft Office Specialist World Competition that she has been invited to participate in this November. Until then she is looking forward to beginning her classes for her applied math major at the University of Washington, where she’ll continue using the skills she learned at Auburn Mountainview High School.
Espino-Cebrero is also looking forward to competing again next year; this time his eye is on the first place title.
“When I first found out I scored second place I was both happy and a bit disappointed. I was expecting to get third place so hearing that I got second was a pleasant surprise, but also being so close to first was a little frustrating,” he said.
Similar to Vo, Espino-Cebrero knows he’ll use the skills he learned in high school in his future career. While he isn’t sure what that might be, he has his eye on the IT and finance field.
“I’m so proud of them. I always say do something today that your future self will thank you for, and this is it,” Eckelman said.
Congratulations Quynh and Alejandro! Good luck to you both in the upcoming school year and future competitions.
To write this article, the Auburn Examiner interviewed Patricia Eckelman, reviewed information on the Certiport and MOS Championship website, and spoke with Quynh Vo and Alejandro Espino-Cebrero.