April 10, 2013

Rising Star faculty award recognizes potential for future greatness

Jonathan Lichetenwalner

Jonathan Lichtenwalner was chosen to receive the Rising Star faculty award at Northeastern this year. It is presented to a teacher who has had less than five years in the classroom, but who shows potential to become a great professor in future years. He teaches firefighting in the classroom and in the life-like labs that are held as part of the fire fighter academy training. (Photo by Adrianne Eager)

By Barbara Baker

Passion for a subject matter is what helps make a big difference between being a great teacher and one that is just average. For Jonathan Lichtenwalner, passion about firefighting comes easy--learning to teach is a little bit harder. 

And, one of the significant benefits of the community college setting is that your teachers are very often working professionals in the subject matter they are sharing in the classroom. They have in the past, or do currently, work in the trenches and have up-close, firsthand knowledge to share with students.

Lichtenwalner, still a relatively new teacher, came to Northeastern in December of 2009 when he was hired to coordinate the fire academy and teach coursework in the fire science technology and fire science wildland areas.  He brought with him a solid background in volunteer firefighting and past employment in construction, substitute teaching, and county government work. He has been named the college’s Rising Star Award winner for 2012-2013. This award is presented to a faculty member who has less than five years of teaching experience and is showing potential to become a great instructor.

Lichtenwalner gives a great deal of credit to those who have mentored him over the years. First and foremost, he talks about former director and instructor of the criminal justice program  at Northeastern, Jim Stewart. He also names a whole slew of fire chiefs who have and continue to run departments where he has been an active volunteer, namely the Skyline Fire and Rescue in Milton, Florida and the Bolivar Fire Department in Missouri. Fire chiefs for the Ferry Pass Fire Department (Florida) and the Central Polk County Fire and Rescue (Missouri), also gave Lichtenwalner great mentoring.

“I have also enjoyed working with the Sterling firefighters in developing and growing the fire academy which is a joint effort between NJC and the Sterling Fire Department,” says Lichtenwalner. “Their experience and knowledge make this academy the success it is today.”

When it comes to teaching, Lichtenwalner says that what he likes most is the people he has been able to work with, and observing student success. “The people I work with have really helped me develop as a professional,” he notes. “And I love watching students ‘digest’ information and apply it to their lives.”

Lichtenwalner and his wife, Sherrie, have two young sons and you often see the whole family at activities taking place at the college. He says he tries to spend his days living life to the fullest and he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. He enjoys working on cars as a hobby, loves music of all types but says he can’t carry a tune to save his soul. He says that watching how dramatically technology changes the world and how people are able to learn and communicate is nothing less than fascinating.

If a genie popped out of the flames during his next firefighting exercise and granted him one wish, he knows what it would be. “I’d ask to be a retired millionaire up in the mountains who is also a volunteer firefighter!” 

In the meantime, Lichtenwalner plans to keep working hard to become an even better teacher.  He wants to be a rising star that continues to shine.