Upper Arlington News

Longtime teacher to lead UAFD public education program

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A retired Grandview teacher is returning to the classroom to teach Upper Arlington students about fire safety and prevention.

The Upper Arlington Fire Division has hired Ray Corbett to serve as its public education coordinator.

Corbett, 55, of Upper Arlington was tapped to replace Tom Trainer, who recently retired after leading the division's public education and outreach programming since 2001.

As public education coordinator, Corbett will direct the UAFD's fire safety and public education efforts, which largely consist of hands-on instruction for students at Upper Arlington elementary and middle schools.

Although it's a change in course, Corbett said he expects to be right at home in the new job because it will return him to school classrooms. Prior to taking the UAFD position, Corbett spent 33 years in education, including the last 25 teaching in the Grandview Heights City School District.

"It perked my interest because it's in education," said Corbett, who remains Grandview Heights High School's varsity boys basketball coach. "I taught comprehensive social studies at Grandview and while this isn't talking about the Constitution, it's talking about safety.

"That part will be different, but I still have the background in the classroom," he said. "I think I'm very fortunate to get on with the Upper Arlington Fire Department. The education these kids are introduced to at an early age, when it comes to fire prevention and safety, I just think is outstanding."

The UAFD has provided fire and life safety education in public and private schools in the city since 1961.

In 1990, the division established a dedicated public education coordinator's position.

Corbett will work part time under a professional services contract that will pay him up to $25,000 this year, said Upper Arlington Fire Chief Jeff Young.

"We put out inquires to the local schools and the previous fire safety educator, Tom Trainer, to find a local Upper Arlington resource with an educational teaching background who wanted to continue to work with the local schools and youth on a limited basis in presenting our safety messages," Young said. "As part of that process, Ray came to our attention as someone who fits the bill.

"The most important part of this process is the interviews conducted by the fire prevention staff, since we are looking for not only someone with previous teaching experience, they must also be able to seamlessly get out of the classroom and be comfortable doing hands-on presentations with the fire safety lab, 'Sparky's House,' hands-on fire extinguisher classes and occasionally, assisting with large organized tours with the firefighters and equipment."

UAFD Public Information Officer Dan Kochensparger said many fire departments throughout Ohio and beyond have public education programs, but Upper Arlington's is unique in that professional educational lesson plans are presented in individual classroom settings rather than an "assembly" environment.

It is believed to be the only program of its type in Ohio, he said.

The primary goal of the program is to teach a different fire or safety skill to every student in every classroom, in every school in preschool through eighth grade, every year, Kochensparger said.

"What sets ours apart is the fact we do it pretty much year-round and we do it with single-classroom intensity rather than in big auditoriums," he said. "We've got that professional educator doing it and we have specialized plans."

Corbett estimated the public education program reaches about 95 percent of students living in Upper Arlington.

He added that his position, although facilitated by fire personnel who help drive his messages home to students, permits the UAFD to devote its firefighters to emergency response.

"It does allow their firefighters to concentrate on what they're supposed to do," he said. "It allows me to specialize and concentrate on what I'm supposed to do."

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