Howard Umrah- Certify Canada Educator of the Year 2020


Howard Umrah was the recipient of the 2020 Certify Canada Educator of the Year award. His dedication to certification and education is truly remarkable and has made an impact in the lives of so many learners.
Howard began his education journey by getting education himself, he is well decorated with a College Teaching Certificate, MBA, BSc (Industrial Engineering), and a Diploma (Mech. Engineering).
He started his teaching career at a College right after completing his Bachelors degree. He taught in the Engineering Department and had the opportunity to grow with the institution and was involved in the college’s accreditation and transition to a University. After his first year teaching, Howard was awarded the Engineering Department’s Lecturer of the Year.
Following further studies in Business Administration, he started to concentrate on teaching the Engineering Management courses. The students appreciated that someone with an engineering background was sharing management information with them.
After 12 years of full-time teaching at the post-secondary level, he went into industry to practice. Still, he stayed connected with academia by teaching Engineering Management and Operations Management on a part time basis
Working at Durham college. He worked part-time at Durham College from 2009 to 2014, teaching mainly in the Supply Chain & Operations Management program. Howard was hired full time in 2014 to be a member of the Business Fundamentals program (a one year Certificate program). He became the Program Coordinator in 2016 and has continued in that role to date.
Because the Business Fundamentals program students graduate after one year, his goal was to assist them in having additional certifications and therefore started thinking about the MOS certification. This certification opportunity would eventually shift from 45 Business Fundamentals students to all First Year Business students (approx. 650 students). He proposed MOS Certification for all First Year Business students in 2018 and piloted MOS Excel certification for the Business Fundamentals students in April 2019, with a 67% pass rate.
In Fall 2019, all First Year students had the opportunity to become MOS certified in Word. In Winter 2020, due to COVID-19, certifications were initially put on hold as there was no way to get students into the computer rooms to take exams. With Certiport’s introduction of Exams from Home, the remote way of taking the Certification Exams, many students were given the opportunity to certify in MOS Word and Excel in the Spring/Summer of 2020. Fall 2020, saw all First Year students given the opportunity to become MOS certified in Word and PowerPoint. In Winter 2021, all First Year students will get to write the MOS Excel exam.
He believes that none of this would have been possible without the Business Computer Applications team’s commitment and dedication – and wants to say a big thank you to them. Also, CCI Learning was there to help their team get ready to offer these EfH and bring them back to certify their students.
For Howard, the most significant challenges while navigating education during COVID-19 were moving his courses to an online format and getting the necessary tools to teach courses such as Business Math.
Howard overcame these challenges with assistance from Durham College’s Centre for Academic and Faculty Enrichment (CAFÉ), which provided support in every way to faculty. He was also able to overcome the challenges with his colleagues who built the Community of Practice (CoP). They shared, collaborated, tried new things, and helped each other through the difficult times.
He found that remote learning can be an exciting experience that gives you opportunities to try new things with new tools that would not be used in the Face-to-face environment. It also allows professors to learn and implement new ways to engage students. Howard believes remote learning can be challenging for those who thrive on the up-close-and-personal environment because the interaction is taken away. Still, he believes you can build those connections, bonds and relationships virtually.
Howard mentioned that CCI Learning is a fantastic partner in the Certification journey. He says the support they receive from CCI Learning goes above and beyond what was ever expected.
He says when dealing with the CCI Learning staff, they:
  • Provide training sessions on proctoring certification exams
  • Respond to emails with concerns or questions in a very timely manner
  • Promote new tools, certifications, etc.
  • Are always ready and available to assist them with problems

Howard mentioned he specifically wanted to say thank you to CCI Learning team members: Curtis, Katheryn, Dan, Keith, and Lee, who have always been there for them.

Howard has a message for other educators and students:

To Educators:
Take a chance because when the risk is higher, the reward is even greater. For educators who are thinking of adding Certification to the programs, reach out to CCI Learning. Starting the process is simpler than you think. Stay positive and try new things!

To Students:
Take advantage of every opportunity to become certified. Employers are looking for those students that stand out.
Stay positive and try new things!

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