Linda Ward, Mecosta Osceola Career Tech Center, Big Rapids, Michigan
While Linda Ward did not always begin her career as an educator, she has always been and continues to be deeply involved in improving the cosmetology field for future professionals. During the time she owned a salon, Ward assisted in updating and improving the cosmetology program at Northern Michigan University before moving into an instructor position at Traverse Bay Area Career Tech Center where she developed her program into one with statewide recognition. Now she teaches at Mecosta Osceola Career Tech Center in Big Rapids, Michigan and is a member of the Michigan Board of Cosmetology. Ward shares that she has recently assumed the role of interim principal for her school while her fellow educator spends a year of active duty in Afghanistan.
As an educator and former business owner, Ward believes that safety is the most important issue that must be addressed and practiced in schools and in the community. She implements OSHA safety training with her own cosmetology specific safety training in order to provide comprehensive safety and health knowledge. “It is impossible for students to be productive, engaged, and able to learn if they do not feel safe within their environment,” Ward says, “It is imperative that students know, understand, and have practiced safety in the workplace in order to help prevent any type of accident.” Ward shares that safety training has made an enormous impact on her students because they often have never been taught safety in a workplace previously and that it opens their eyes to what can happen.
For the cosmetology curriculum, safety is a top priority due to the types of tools and human-to-human contact her students have with each other and clients. Ward’s program includes artificial nail and design, hair coloring and highlighting, hair analysis and care, manicuring and pedicuring as well as esthetics and makeup training. Often her students are working with chemicals and tools that can cause injuries if they are not handled safely. “Students work with all types of tools that can cause injury if not used properly as well with products that could cause extreme harm to themselves and to their clients. I want students to understand how to keep themselves safe and how to keep their clients safe as well.” With a safety background, her students are able to concentrate on their soft skills and technical education.
Ward’s program gives her students the opportunity to receive college credit in addition to the student operated salon, Touch of Class. Her students complete over 1500 hours of training within the program concentrating on theory and performing hands-on work. Students that successfully complete the program are permitted to take the Michigan Cosmetology Exam and become a licensed cosmetologist.
Over the last 23 years as an educator, Ward has been heavily involved in SkillsUSA; encouraging and coaching her students through competitions at local, regional, state and national levels. Across cosmetology, nail technician, esthetics technician and other events, Ward has had more than 94 state medalists, 42 national medalists and 2 international contestants. Ward believes that all of her students have demonstrated enormous success and shares a story of a former student who developed a passion and love for the cosmetology profession. She not only excelled in both theory and practical work but competed in hairdressing in SkillsUSA winning first place in local, regional, state and national competitions. Because of her success and talent, she had the honor of traveling to the WorldSkills competition in Germany where she competed against 32 countries. She is now a successful business owner and the chairperson of the cosmetology advisory committee where she works with students to inspire them to be successful also. “Walking into an arena and witnessing two of my students competing against other nations and knowing that I played a part in their success. Seeing my students succeed is what makes this job so rewarding. Students are working and making a living because of the training and service they’ve received here, ” Ward says.
When not competing, Ward promotes community service and teaching her students how to give back. One of the biggest community service projects her students organize is a luminary tribute to veterans of the United States military. They create and set up over 800 luminaries that are placed at each of the gravesite. Luminaries were also made available to the community for purchase which totaled 1600. The money collected was donated to a veterans home in Grand Rapids and to help build a veterans park locally.
She is passionate about her profession and loves that she is able to see how motivated her students are to learn all that they can. “I absolutely love being in the ‘beauty’ industry and working with youth. I wanted to pass lessons on to the workers of tomorrow. I am committed to inspiring students to succeed and become successful in a profession that I am so passionate about.”