Wesley Crain tells his students the day they stop learning, they need to retire from the fire service.
Crain, fire science instructor at McHenry County College and a full-time Glenview Fire Department lieutenant, said he’s always wanted to be an instructor. For the past 25 years, he’s taught introductory fire science courses at MCC.
“My love of teaching is to be able to watch students’ success and to watch careers develop for these students, knowing you had an impact,” Crain said.
The Woodstock native attended MCC before joining the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District, where he worked for 25 years. His father also was a Woodstock firefighter, Crain said.
Now at the Glenview Fire Department, Crain will work a 24-hour shift and leave thinking about going back to work at MCC.
His love for the job is what keeps him going, Crain said.
“If I can help students progress in their careers and watch them grow, that makes me really happy,” Crain said.
The classes Crain teaches are an introduction to fire sciences, and for the past semester he also has been the interim department director, coordinating the lessons for all of the fire science classes.
Jim Falco, dean of education, career and technical education at MCC, said Crain is responsible for bringing experts into the classrooms.
“He’s very attentive to the students and really wants to makes sure the students understand the critical role they play in the fire services,” Falco said.
Coordinating with local fire departments to bring in their supplies is another part of Crain’s job, Falco said, and something that requires him to have a close relationship with all departments in the area.
Crain’s teaching doesn’t stop with MCC, however. He also teaches some classes for the University of Illinois’ Fire Service Institute, Crain said, and heads the training division at the Glenview Fire Department.
Glenview Fire Department Lt. Gary Schumacher said Crain has been with the department for 13 years, and Crain has taught Schumacher some of what he knows working in the fire service.
“It’s a lot of work, and I know it’s a lot of off-hours he does to put all that stuff together,” Schumacher said.
Crain is able to get old firefighters and new ones excited about the fire service, Schumacher said, which is important for a career that can be hard to get into.
“I think he just loves the fire service so much that he just wants to see it thrive and wants to see the right people get the job,” Schumacher said.
As a teacher, Crain said he looks at it as his responsibility to do everything in his ability to get students through their goals and give them extra help if they need it.
He also encourages working as a team in his class, following the fire department protocol of not leaving anybody behind.
“We make their worst day to be something, hopefully, better in the outcome in the end,” Crain said of any person who the fire department works with. “And it’s the same thing in the classroom. We got to all help each other.”
Helping people doesn’t stop when he’s outside of the department or the classroom. Crain said when he’s at home, neighbors will call him if they need help.
“You don’t have to wear the shirt, but they know who you are,” Crain said.
He said in class, he emphasizes firefighters are held to a higher standard than others.
With all the jobs Crain works – he also does construction work in the summer – he said his family supports him through the business.
“They’re actually my heroes for putting up with me,” Crain said.