Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service.
I have been in the volunteer fire service for 22 years along with a full-time job in the medical field working in Cardiac Rehab and in the Trauma Anesthesia OR. I began my fire career in Virginia and moved back to Michigan in 2001. Currently, I volunteer with the Algoma Fire Department, in Rockford, MI. Recently, I have been working as a contact Training Coordinator for the State of Michigan Fire Marshal’s office. I have five children with my oldest daughter completing 6 years in the Marine Corps in June 2018.
Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor?
In 2012, I turned in my resignation to my Fire Chief Steve Johnson at the time, this was largely due to loss of interest in the fire service and he denied my resignation. The Chief sent me to Fire Officer classes, which entailed every Wednesday night from September to April. I was less than thrilled…..until I had my first Fire Officer class (Incident Safety Officer)! That Incident Safety Officer class re-ignited me, re-engaged me and set the course to conquer the fire world again. I signed up for Fire Instructor 1 right after the officer classes ended and have not slowed down since accomplishing 22 more fire courses and some state and national certifications. My mentor and friend, retired Fire Chief Steve Johnson saved and re-ignited my fire service career and inspired me to be a dynamic Fire Instructor and Mentor to the fire service.
What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that?
I am currently working with Michigan’s Bureau of Fire Services on a statewide Community Risk Reduction Task Force. Our CRR approach goals are to reduce civilian fire deaths, increase fire education for all Michigan residents while assisting and providing Fire departments in our state with the resources they need to accomplish these goals. I also have been working to inspire students in our local fire academy’s and firefighters across the country to be a gladiator for their health and wellness by teaching them about cardiac health.
Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
Achieving the ISFSI Live Fire Instructor credential and the ISFSI Training Officer credential. I will also add that completing my Fire Officer classes changed my perspective, while opening my eyes to the fire ground and all incidents. Understanding the “Whole” picture on scene made such a difference and I recommend all firefighters to go through Fire Officer classes for a perspective of why officers make the tactical decisions, needed in a moment’s notice.
What do you hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor?
I personally look to continue to grow and learn from the students at each class I instruct. I also hope to inspire firefighters to take their heart health serious in this business and be gladiators not just for our own health but for each member of your department. Remember, mentorship happens whether you participate or not……someone is always watching and learning from you. Make them watch a gladiator for their health and heart!When you are gone, what do you want people to remember you by – My passion, positive attitude, dedication and purpose that I bring to our community, Country and fire service.
What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started?
The change in PPE, increase of women in the fire service and most important that Mental health is finally getting addressed in our line of work.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I have won several Cooking competitions with my winning dishes being “Borscht stew” and “Squash and wild rice soup”. I am famous for making treats out of vegetables and no one knowing! For example, “Beet pancakes” “Kale Brownies” and “Sweet Potato Cupcakes”
And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor?
It is very important to find a Mentor in the fire service and one mentor outside of the fire service to provide balance. Your mentor needs to be experienced and I recommend at least one level above you. I also challenge a new instructor to recall their time sitting in training and write down what they liked most from their instructors and what they liked and didn't like about those instructors. And keep evaluating instructors and their methods while attending conferences. The knowledge will help you grow as an instructor. Always stay humble and remember we all put our pants on “one leg at a time” no matter the rank on your badge.