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Nicolet College teacher named firefighter instructor of the year

When the pandemic hit early last year and Nicolet College moved all classes to the virtual world, fire training instructor Mike Carlin had more than two dozen students just weeks away from finishing their in-person classes and becoming certified fire fighters.

While many academic disciplines made the transition rather seamlessly, the very nature of hands-on fire fighter training meant that all of the instruction would not be best suited for the online world.

“You really don’t want YouTube firefighters, those who get their training only from YouTube videos,” explained Carlin, who is also the chief at the Lake Tomahawk Volunteer Fire Department. “These are skills that have to be learned hands on and my biggest fear was that we were going to have to stop the classes and have all of these failures when we were so close to finishing.”

Carlin began brainstorming solutions and had the idea to break the classes into smaller groups that could socially distance and hold the training in local fire departments to cut down on travel.

College leadership approved of the plan, which included elements of online learning.

In the end, all of the students finished their classes and those who were eligible received their state firefighter certifications.

Fellow Nicolet fire training instructor Alex Kaphingst nominated Carlin for the Wisconsin Society of Emergency Services Instructor of the Year, an award the statewide association recently bestowed upon him.

“It was nothing short of phenomenal what Mike put together in a short period of time to make all of this work,” Kaphingst said. “He’s deeply committed to emergency services education and I think what he did in the depths of the pandemic demonstrates that.

Carlin also credited his colleagues at local volunteer fire departments throughout the region for their willingness to bring training to their facilities on short notice.

“It really was a team effort and hats off to everyone at the local departments for helping make this training happen,” Carlin said.

From Northwoods Star Journal