NCTC Shifts Focus from Fire Services to Law Enforcement

NCTC%C5%9B+Public+Safety+Classroom+%0APhoto+credit%3A+Ivy+Hoang

NCTCś Public Safety Classroom Photo credit: Ivy Hoang

Rebekah Dalmer, Writer

Bellows Free Academy recently hired three School Safety Officers (SSO) in place of the previous School Resource Officer (SRO) Corporal Kristine Koch. However, you may have seen Koch and her smiling dog Murphy roaming the school once more; Koch has returned to fill Michael Antoniak’s position as the new Northwest Career and Technical Center Public Safety instructor and she brings necessary changes with her. 

This year, NCTC’s Public Safety and Fire Services program has shifted to Public Safety and Law Enforcement. The course was previously taught by retired firefighter Michael Antoniak who focused on fire safety and firefighting. The classroom was lined with firefighting equipment during his time as a teacher. 

According to Koch, the program’s focus has shifted away from firefighting because “in order for the Tech Center to have certain programs, we have to teach students jobs that are high wage, high demand. Firefighting, over the last couple [of] years, is not one of those…Most firefighting departments in the state are volunteers. For students to get out and actually get a job as a firefighter with a high wage is slim.”

According to Koch, she brings ten years of experience in law enforcement, five as a game warden in North Carolina and five years as a police officer for St. Albans City, three of which she served as BFA’s Student Resource Officer. Koch said that her experience as the SRO officer “made it more comfortable to apply [to this position].” 

“Having that understanding of what this program offered, knowing the staff…was really helpful,” Koch said. 

Koch noted that the environment of BFA is like a microcosm of the St. Albans community as a whole and though she teaches all day now, her responsibilities haven’t changed all that much. 

“[There are] similar aspects. [I am] still mentoring and being a role model for students. As a police officer, you kinda do the same thing,” Koch said. 

Koch said she teaches two full-time classes -a morning and an afternoon group- and a pre-tech Rescue 911 class. Similar to other NCTC programs, the new Public Safety and Law Enforcement course rotates between specialties within the career every two years. This year the program focuses on law enforcement, patrol techniques, constitutional law, crime scene, etc. Next year, Koch will focus on emergency medical services. 

Blake Cadieux (’25) is one of Koch’s Public Safety students. Cadieux said, “[I] joined at the beginning of the year because I was aiming to be a full-time firefighter…I already knew I wasn’t gonna fully learn the firefighter aspect of it…There [are] still sides of it we learn, but it’s not the same as a retired firefighter teaching.” 

Cadieux is a cadet for the Georgia Fire Department and earned Vermont Youth Firefighter of the Year over the summer.

Cadieux said that although his goal to become a full-time firefighter remains intact, the new Public Safety program has shown him the benefits of becoming certified as an EMT. 

Cadieux’s plans for after high school reflect this.

“I’ve got connections with Amcare already…so I was thinking that I would end up working as an EMT for the first year and then go to college to become a paramedic. I’m still interested in firefighting…I’ll probably get [certified] somewhere in between and become a paramedic firefighter, which is heavily [needed],” Cadieux said.

Cadieux added, “At first…I was wondering where [the new program] would lead to because, obviously, I came to BFA for the firefighter program, but I still like the way that it’s going. I never really thought about getting my EMT to boost my resume as a firefighter. I have a lot more information about helping people. I think the program’s in a good way right now.”

Though the concentration isn’t on fire safety anymore, Koch said there are still connections and education available for students interested in firefighting. Cadieux and Koch agree that anyone remotely interested in law enforcement, fire safety, emergency medical services, border patrol, corrections, etc. should join the program.