High School: The Diploma that Matters
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You never really know where life will take you. I worked hard in high school to go to college and become a science teacher. I was told that I had to earn a college diploma and then continue to go to school. During my educational career, I earned three master’s degrees and became an administrator, but I was never a traditional teacher. I focused on students first as people and developed relationships with them to help them value school and to graduate from high school.
Even as an administrator, I went against the traditional grain and pushed for all students to stay in school and earn their high school diploma so that they had a basic academic skill set for their future. I was continually supporting the "non-college track” teenagers and trying to make school something that they enjoyed and found value in versus something that they hated. I ended up making school a better place for all of the different types of learners because I was pushing for school to be about the individual and not about standardization. Many of my previous students continue to stay in touch and let me know how they are doing and thank me for pushing them to get their high school diploma. After twenty-five years serving students, I was forced to change my career. In finding my next path, it wasn’t my three master’s degrees that helped me move on or even my bachelor’s degree, it was my high school diploma!
After spending almost a year applying for positions in education and being told I was too expensive, too old or over-educated, I started to become very depressed. I supported high-school students for twenty-five years to get their diplomas, but I was so focused on using my academic background and degrees that I could not stop and listen to my own “preaching.”
One day, I looked at my brother-in-law and the success that he was having as a new small business owner. He never went to college, but, had graduated from high school and then proceeded to work hard and learn an industry. It was the basic skill set that he learned in high school and the perseverance of finishing that allowed him to continue to grow and learn. I’ve known him for fifteen years and he is one of the smartest people that I know, but he simply hated the traditional high school setting. I dusted myself off and decided that I too was going to start my own business despite being in my mid-forties. I didn’t even know I was an entrepreneur.
Since that time, I have started my own small transportation business. One year ago, I knew nothing about transportation except that there was a growing demand. I’m now the owner-operator and run every aspect of the company. I’m the researcher, financial guy, marketing specialist, dispatcher, driver, etc, and all of the skills that I am using are ones that I learned in high school.
My company is growing and I have made a deal with a manufacturing company to become their exclusive transporter. The small manufacturing company’s owner has no formal education beyond high school and he is super successful. He has told me that he thanks the few teachers that pushed him to get his diploma, because he uses those basic skills on a daily basis.
Both my brother-in-law and the manufacturing company’s owner will hire employees without degrees, but both want their employees to have high school diplomas. Why? They want people that have persevered despite their struggles and have learned basic knowledge and developed basic skills. These are the type of people that they have learned make excellent long-term employees.
Most academic programs in the United States continue to push toward standardization and making high school a place where students develop pre-college skills. While this works for some students, it definitely does not work for all students. High school should be a place where teenagers can become the individuals that they are instead of continuing to force them to be like each other. If the individual is nurtured, they have the ability to develop basic skills and find the internal drive to persevere and earn their high school diploma. With that high school diploma, they might go to college or they might do something completely different. After-all, you never really know where life will take you.
Kevin Leineweber has a plethora of educational experience. During his twenty-five years as an educator; he attended eight colleges, earning three master’s degrees, provided professional service, received multiple grants, and won numerous local and national awards. He is currently the owner-operator of Leineweber Transport LLC.