Certification in the Community – An Interview with Gary Priddy

Typically I write these interviews in sort of a biography format. I think it might help this time if I write in more of a storytelling format. This week I’m interviewing Gary Priddy, with Certification Partners. The intent was to learn about his military background, and how it impacted where he is today. We got talking about some other topics I want to touch on, but first let’s lay out his background.

Gary’s Background

Gary was almost 19 when he joined the Marine Corps back in ‘85. He was an 0311, which is code for infantry rifleman. What he did was mostly grunt work, but said that it was “challenging but great”.

Gary worked some odd jobs in his home state of Maryland when he got out of the military. Eventually he transferred out to Phoenix, AZ, and got his bachelors in education from Arizona State University. He became a secondary education teacher (high school), which meant he had to teach a multitude of things. That’s part of where his passion for the core of teaching sparked. Gary wanted to learn how to teach, not just how to become a teacher.

“If you know how to teach, you can pretty much teach anything.”

It was in Phoenix where Gary started to get involved with Certification Partners, working on the CIW products. He had a good friend who suggested he apply there. Once Gary realized his passion for teaching could help other people learn how to teach, he was all in.

That’s most of what we talked about regarding Gary’s background. But, we did end up circling back to the military aspect of his life. Something he really appreciated about the Military was how they taught things. It wasn’t just reading and classroom work, a lot of it was really hands-on. He clearly has a passion for education, and his brain is geared towards analyzing different teaching styles.

Working with Certification Partners

Let’s look at where Gary is today, working on the CIW products. Through Certification Partners, Gary’s department works with schools and industries to give basic IT training. They focus on keeping a gender neutral standpoint, meaning they don’t teach one specific form of IT. It’s generalized to give people more of a foundation to be able to learn. They have the credentials to back what they’re teaching, so people walk away with a certification.

Gary and I talked about the benefits of learning from a young age. And, how anything can be taught at any age. Gary’s company teaches IT to anyone from high school to secondary and post-secondary education. But they quickly learned that you can teach these IT basics at any age. They had an entire state reach out and ask if they had a curriculum that could fuse with middle schools. The tricky part was finding a way for a typical teacher to be able to integrate IT into a classroom. When Gary was a kid “technological integration” meant using a grease pencil on an overhead projector. Now things are a lot more complicated.

What they ended up creating was ICT Essentials Suite, which was different from what they were originally teaching. They can pick and choose which sets of classes they want to infuse in their curriculum. However, the lower grade students don’t graduate with a certificate. If they got certified too early in life, they may not have a chance to use it before it expires.

The most important thing they wanted students to have was a solid foundation. Then when it comes time to choose their career they know the basics, and know how to learn what’s next.