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Originally published Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 11:38a.m.

COTTONWOOD – As Camp Verde High School’s principal a few years ago, Bob Weir worked with retired firefighter and paramedic Steve Darby.

It was Darby who taught and organized the high school’s fire science program.

Now superintendent of Valley Academy of Career and Technology Education, Weir said he is happy to have Weir doing the same for the community’s fire science students.

“Steve is passionate for seeing students succeed and have an opportunity to have a reward career in the fire science,” Weir said. “He works hard to see that the students are receiving the latest in fire science skills and knowledge.”

As fire science instructor for Valley Academy – also known as VACTE – Darby works with Yavapai College’s Fire Science department to see that area’s high school students “are getting the needed learning objectives and standards so they can pass the state Fire Fighter I & II certification along with Hazmat state certification,” Weir said.

It was while coaching his daughter’s youth sports teams when Darby decided to become an educator.

“I have always felt to be a good coach you must be a good teacher,” he said. As a career and technical education teacher – CTE – Darby is “training young people to be job ready for careers.”

“Watching these young people become passionate about a career, working hard to gain needed certifications, and being hired in their dream jobs is very fulfilling for me,” Darby said. “It wasn’t that long ago that I was that young person striving to break into this competitive but fulfilling career.”

Verde Valley Newspapers: Tell us about your teaching style.

Darby: “I really don’t use any one style of teaching, rather multiple approaches. In teaching the firefighter academy, I use a great deal of discipline. The cadets wear uniforms, stand each day for inspection, tie knots correctly, and then we begin class. Failure to meet inspection requirements or unsafe behavior at any time results in physical conditioning consequences.

“My lectures always include my experiences as a firefighter. We do a great deal of hands-on exercises, online testing and certification programs, cadet demonstrations, open discussions, and team building events.”

VVN: Tell us something notable about your career.

Darby: “Each year, we participate in the Skills USA regional and state Firefighting competitions with other schools throughout the state. In 2017, one of our cadets placed first in the state. This qualified him to compete nationally in Louisville, Kentucky against all other high school and college programs.

“Our cadet posted the best physical agility time and finished in the top 20 percent overall, a proud accomplishment for our program.”

VVN: Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

Darby: Last year, one of our cadets had softball scholarship offers from schools all across the country. She finally decided on a small college in Idaho because they had a great fire science and paramedic program.

“It’s times like this that I realize the impact and positive direction the class is having on these young people.”

VVN: Tell us something we didn’t know about you – or about Valley Academy.

Darby: “Over 30 former students went on to work as full time firefighters, and the fire science program has the highest college freshmen enrollment rate of any CTE program.”

 -- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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