Jennifer is the Dental Assisting Program Director at our Pomona, CA, campus. Jennifer joined the Carrington family in January 2011, but has been teaching for about 5 years. Jennifer is in the unusual position of being both a Carrington faculty member and a student, as she is studying an online Associate degree in Health Studies with us. Jennifer was nominated for this award by the Executive Director of the Pomona campus, Colleen Capitano.
Colleen, why did you nominate Jennifer for this award?
“When I think of commitment to teaching excellence, I automatically think of Jennifer. That’s why I nominated her for this award. Jennifer is not only committed to her students, but to ensuring that all compliance standards are achieved. She diligently works with all our departments, including Career Services, to make sure our students receive excellent customer service. She is one of the only program directors I’ve ever worked with who is so deeply involved in graduate employment; she is dedicated to helping her students find work in the field.”
So Jennifer, what does this award mean to you both personally and professionally?
“To be recognized for the job that I do, and everything I put into it for my students is very rewarding. Students don’t really show their appreciation, just like my kids! But to be recognized and appreciated by your peers and your management just means so much – it’s really unbelievable. It’s gratifying that they know how much I put into what I do every day.”
After 12 years as a Registered Dental Assistant, what made you want to teach?
“I started teaching in the dental office that I worked in; teaching students who came into the office to do their externship. I really enjoyed the moment when the light bulb came on in their eyes! It kind of made me giddy! Once I started getting that feeling, and started seeing these students go on to get jobs, enjoy careers and be successful, the teaching became more important to me. ”
Was there a teacher in your life that inspired you?
“My mom was an educator; she just retired as a vice-principal and my sister’s a teacher, so there must be something in the genes I guess! I suppose I followed in my mom’s footsteps.”
Was there a particular moment in your career when you knew teaching was for you?
“No, not necessarily. I just really feel like I’m touching peoples’ lives; and almost on a daily basis I get something from a student that tells me I’m in the right place. But I can’t recall a specific moment where the light came on so to speak!”
So what’s your motivation as an educator, what drives you?
“I have so much fun with my students; I just love to try and get a giggle out of them in a lecture – and when I do it makes me happy. I also think the school has a lot to do with it. I feel so appreciated at Carrington; it makes me want to do more. I’ve taught in a couple of other schools, but Carrington is like a breath of fresh air. I’ve never wanted to jump out of bed and come to work like I do here!”
This award recognizes excellence; what do you think makes you excel at your job?
“Carrington has the TEACH values – and my favorite is Continuous Improvement. Every day I think back to the last time I taught a class or a subject, and I think to myself ‘what worked the best?’, or ‘what can I do better this time?’ I’m always trying to improve what I’m doing, and make the subjects more understandable for my students. I don’t want them to be lost; I remember when I was a student; sometimes I wouldn’t understand something fully until I went out in the field – that was a little scary. I want my students to get it now, to be confident in their knowledge and not stumble through things like I did on occasion.
I also don’t stop caring when my students leave me; I try to stay in contact with them however I can, even if it’s just through Facebook. If I hear of places that are hiring, I always try to get them into good spots. My relationship with them doesn’t end at graduation.
What techniques do you use to keep your students engaged in their learning?
“I like to change things up. I try not to keep things exactly the same all the time; students get bored with that. I try to do activities that get them up and out of their seats, moving around. Sometimes the stuff we have to go through isn’t very exciting, so I have to keep it engaging to keep them awake!
I like to do case studies, where we review real life scenarios in smaller groups. I remember being 19 years old out in the field, and things came up that I didn’t know how to handle. I try to base case studies on those instances so my students won’t be in the same position I found myself in.
I also work on their critical thinking and soft skills; it’s not just about the instruments. They have to know how to communicate; things like that are really important. Many doctors would rather take an assistant with no hands-on skills, but with a great personality and outstanding soft skills.”
What makes a good day at work?
“With three kids aged 14, 8 and 3, plus studying for my degree, just getting to work on time is a good start! A good day is having fun with my students and getting more of those ‘a-ha’ moments. I just can’t even express how happy I am, and how much I love my job. Pretty much every day is a good day, I really don’t have bad days here.”
Congratulations on receiving this award Jennifer. Your “Commitment to Teaching Excellence” has certainly not gone unnoticed. Your enthusiasm and commitment to the success of your dental assisting students at our Pomona campus continues to be outstanding, and we’re sure that even if they don’t show it, your students are as grateful for that commitment as we are.
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