February 07, 2023

“Communication is a huge part of the job—you have to be controlled in terms of your emotions, and in control. You have to handle being cool under pressure.” Bob Burton knows what he’s talking about. He’s in his second year running NE Metro’s 916 EMT training program at Century College.

A Passion for Teaching

A natural teacher, he transitioned from teaching (English) for fourteen years in the K-12 school system to working with EMT instructors in Woodbury through Century College’s program for nine years. Originally from Chicago, his undergrad degrees are in English and Education (UI), and his Masters is in Education (Hamline U.)

Training EMT Students

Bob has always been passionate about teaching and helping others. “Teachers have to be quick thinking, and keep calm under pressure, and under different circumstances. You have to deal with a lot of emotions, and that translates well to EMT work,” he notes. “Teaching EMT is very rewarding. It develops a lot of confidence in the students, and they feel they can do anything.”

Over the course of the school year, usually in January or February, Bob sees a turning point in his students and their training and development. At this point, the students are using simulations, and that helps them adjust to real-life situations.

“You have to teach the book stuff, and then the street stuff. That’s when the students come to me, asking for more things, more questions,” Bob says. “Students shadow EMTS, so they’re stepping up their game and going into the real world. They open up, and they’re getting invested.

“Also, they practice outside in winter, learning about self, and learning their technical skills. They are observing how professionals that they shadow handle real-world situations”

Another important component of the students’ education is the networking opportunities available to them through the professionals that they meet. “Ride-alongs with ambulance crews are important. Our students saw real-life situations, and they knew what they were doing.”

The Importance of Teamwork and Collaboration

Bob sees critical growth and change in his students from beginning to the end of the school year.

“The process to get them there is incredible. At Century College, EMT professionals Tavis Shields and Al Olson will show them how to use equipment. They also see us working together with others, collaborating—it’s also a good experience for them to see teamwork in action,” Bob says. “At Century, they will see EMT/Paramedic students who are 8-10 years older than them, and they learn how to be a professional. They shadow Century College students”

Another aspect of the job that Bob loves is to see Century’s paramedic students teaching his 916 high school students. “Everyone is stronger when they teach what they know to others.”

Fast-tracking Students for Career Success

In Century College’s 916 program, many of the students want a hand-on experience in their chosen fields, and want to get into their careers early on. Students need to be “team sport people”.

“There is a different sense of adventure for those who go into this line of work—they are purposeful, and genuinely want to help others,” Bob observes. “We always say: ‘Did we get this person to a better place than they were before?’—that is our ultimate goal.”

Bob is seeing success among his students—several have passed the National Registry, and have gotten jobs. It’s a win-win situation.

“They have been fast-tracked into their careers with skills that are in high-demand. They’ve also gotten college credit, so if they want to come back to Century later on, they can,” he says. “There’s no better job than knowing that you helped someone, and they can then go on to do great things in their lives—it’s a ripple effect.”