Fire Inspector, Division of Fire Prevention, Rockford Fire Department
EMS Instructor, SwedishAmerican Hospital
Chair, Jefferson High School Human and Public Services (HPS) Academy Support Team (AST)
Bio and Professional Experience
I was hired in March of 2001 with the Rockford Fire Department. I received my Paramedic license in 2006. In January of 2012 I was appointed to the Division of Fire Prevention as a Fire Inspector. In October of 2012 I became a Fire Investigator. I also work as an EMS Instructor for SwedishAmerican Hospital. I have been there for 7 years.
I graduated from UW-Madison School of Farm and Industry with an Associate degree in Crop and Soil Science. I worked as an agronomist for 5 years before becoming a firefighter. I recently completed my Associate degree in Fire Science at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
I went to one of the first meetings at Jefferson High School for the formation of the AST [Academy Support Team.] I became the chairperson for the committee. I saw the excitement from the Academy Coach and felt this could be something that I should be involved with. The school system wanted to change and there was a vehicle to provide that change, but it needed committed individuals and businesses from the community to make that happen. I was not going to be the one that quit and watched it fail. I wanted to be a part of the solution.
As an Academy Support Team (AST) member since the Academies' inception, what has been the most rewarding and how has the High School redesign into Academies impacted students and community?
With the Academies, the large high school is broken into 4 smaller high schools. This allows the teachers to work more closely with the students. It also allows the teachers to work together and collaborate on ideas and projects. No subject stands alone, now teachers can work together on a project and show the students how each subject works with one another.
Another major advantage to the students is the community involvement the Rockford community has given. Students now get to visit different businesses, talk with industry experts, and learn about all the different types of jobs that are out there for them. They also learn the path to get to those jobs. They can develop their own roadmap, with the help and advice from people that are actually working in the field they want. I think this all makes their high school experience more customizable to the student.
Can you share some of the activities within the High Schools that you and/or the Fire Department have been involved in?
The Rockford Fire Department along with the City of Rockford is a big supporter of the Academies. The fire department has been very involved in a number of projects. We have participated in two Mock Epidemics at Guilford High School; three mock accidents at Auburn, Guilford, and Jefferson High Schools; hosted teacher site visits; hosted sophomore site visits; participated in all of the Academy Expos to assist students in selecting their career pathway; and participated in mock interviews within the High Schools. Additionally, we have assisted in Jefferson High School's Tiny Homes Project as well as Relay for Life. We have also been in Math, Freshman Academy, Driver's Education, Physical Education, and Crime Scene Investigation classrooms. Those visits show how each subject matter is used by firefighters to perform their job. We also had a student at Guilford design some banners for us. We use them for recruiting and public education. [Click here to see pictures!]
The Rockford Fire Department also offers a Fire Explorer program open to High school students interested in becoming fire fighters. This program works well with the college and career readiness initiative. We teach high school students how to become firefighters. They learn how to pull hose, put fire out, do search and rescue. This is a just a very short list of the activities that they learn. We also teach skills like leadership, communication, how to do an interview for promotion or hiring, and report writing. These skills all work in with the soft skills and 21st Century skills that are being taught in the school system. This is a great program for those interested or curious about firefighting as a career.
Any spoiler alerts you can share about ideas for the upcoming school year?
Only one spoiler for now - We are looking at doing a cross curriculum project involving some crime scene investigation at Guilford High School. This is very early in the process but I am confident that we will make something come of it that will be both fun and educational for the students.
In your opinion why should community members and organizations continue to get involved with the High School Academies?
The [school] district has been very successful to this point in the Academies model. Now is the time to really ramp up everything that we are doing and bring it to the next level. The community members are the key to making the Academies a sustainable way to teach our students. This has been one of the most rewarding projects that I have ever been involved with. We are making positive changes in the school system, which means we are making positive changes in the lives of our students.