My name is Joel Vanlanen and we moved back to Iron River in 1995 when I was hired to teach biology and chemistry. I graduated from NMU in 1989 and worked as a wood scaler at Louisiana Pacific Corp in Sagola through the early 90’s. After my day job, I taught evening classes for Bay de Noc Community College in biology, nursing chemistry, and anatomy in Iron Mountain. I left Louisiana Pacific in the fall of 1993 after receiving a teaching assistantship at NMU which included a small stipend for teaching biology labs and free classes towards a Master’s degree. I taught labs in botany, zoology, and anatomy/physiology. After 2 years of classes, teaching, and research, I was hired at West Iron County Schools.
I really enjoy teaching as every class and every year is different. I am always learning from the students and modifying my lessons. When labs don’t work very well, independent study students try new labs for hopefully better results.
My favorite part of teaching is when a student grasps a difficult concept. As one student describes it: “I felt like I’m standing on top of a mountain celebrating”.
My summers are filled with fishing, camping, and hiking. I occasionally teach a fishing class for the Windsor Center.
I am currently an advisor for forest club and high school bowl.