Michael Segerstrom, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep since 2004, is also a member of the CSIA board of directors and is a CSIA instructor. He taught at the National Chimney Sweep Training School in June — for the first time- and the experience left him inspired. This is an as-told-to article that appears in the August edition of Sweeping magazine.

This was my first full week of teaching the same group of students, not new faces every day, and teaching a class I had never taught before! The longest I had done was a 1-day, 8-hour class and I did it four times this year and I think as many times last year. I did a lot of 60 or 90 minutes classes at different trade shows.

I was nervous but I did have confidence going into it – a big confidence gain because I was asked.

Being able to work alongside guys who are legends or icons in the industry – guys like Tom Urban and Bob Fish and Ashley Eldridge. Just to be along side those guys. Inspiring is the word I would use.

Being in class, doing actual demonstrations and looking at guys when they see something for the first time, and being a part of showing that to them for the first time, is like watching when the light bulb goes off inside their head.

More: Sign up for the National Chimney Sweep Training School. (Hurry! The last class for 2014 will be held Sept. 22-27 at the CSIA Tech Center in Plainfield, Indiana.)

The study groups at night were good. Because we wouldn’t just study, but talk about the industry and the things that we’ve experienced, the new guys and those who have been doing it a while.

I really felt like I could make a tangible contribution to the industry. Not just by teaching off slides, but sharing my own experiences as it relates to things and answering guys’ questions and seeing most of them walk away CSIA CCS Certified at the end of the week.

It’s a pride thing. I want all of my guys to get 100s. But I understand that it is not an easy test to pass. You have to know what you are doing to pass the test.

Physically I was exhausted, standing on my feet for a week. And I almost lost my voice. By the time I got back to New Jersey my voice was just about gone.

I addressed the class on Friday, because I left and they tested on Saturday. The message I tried to deliver was, regardless of if you pass or fail tomorrow, take one thing that you learned, at least one thing, bring it back and try to implement it. Maybe it’s a new brush something that simple – just one thing and implement it.


There were several times during the class where we talked about common-sense approaches that guys had never thought about. Where it never occurred to them to try that. Like Bob Fish; when he inspects a chimney, he puts a knee board in front of it! For me, having been doing this for 17 years that something I had never tried … and when he explained it to me, the light bulb went off in my head!

More: Watch a promotional video on the National Chimney Sweep Training School.

As an owner-operator I still work in the field, I still go out on all the repairs and most of the sweeps and inspections. So it was pretty intuitive. I think I was able to connect because I have current field experience.

You’ll learn things that you’ll take for the rest of your career that will make your jobs easier. That will make you better at your job, and in the end, make your job more profitable. Or your boss, if you are an employee.

If a boss was considering sending his employee it will make them better sweeps. Whether or not they pass the test, they will learn things that they will be able to implement right away that will make them manage their time better, make them perform services better, and in the end make them a more profitable employee to have.

This was 20 students in a room. They had to learn stuff, so we spent a lot of time together. I feel like I made some friends. I hope I see all of them again, and 10 years we’ll still be friends.

I hope they do real well in their careers whether they are owners or employees.

The way the class was put together, the order of things, everything flowed and fit – nothing dated or inaccurate … It was a really comfortable program to teach.

It was my first experience with what is taught at the National Chimney Sweep Training School. It’s a solid program.

More on Mike: Visit his company web page.