From Student to Teacher: Faculty Spotlight with Dental Assisting instructor Jerald Stroughter
Jerald Stroughter has been an instructor in the Dental Assisting program at the Carrington College Pleasant Hill campus since October of 2022. He strives to bring positivity to his students every day and loves teaching them about the small things on the job that can make a big difference. He also knows what it’s like to be a dental assisting student—he graduated from the very same program in 2015.
What did you do before you went to Carrington?
I was an elementary school teacher’s aide in the Pittsburg Unified School District. I also worked in their after-school program and on lunch duty. At that time in my life, I also did a lot of different jobs—odd jobs, fast food, and working security.
What made you want to study Dental Assisting?
I had a kid on the way at the time, and I decided I needed a steady career that would have a regular source of income. So, in 2014, I started studying dental assisting at a local trade school to earn my associate degree. Soon after I began, though, that school shut down. Carrington College reached out to students who were stranded in that situation, and I saw it was a great opportunity—I could do their dental assisting program in (as few as) 9 months instead of 18, so I enrolled.
What was your experience like as a student at Carrington College? What was the best part?
I liked the program; I had a bit of an advantage because I had started a program elsewhere. I loved that it was very hands on—that was my favorite part. We would spend two hours in class, then two hours in the lab. I’m a hands-on learner, and it made it easy to connect things.
What did you do after graduation?
I got hired at Western Dental as a sterilization tech when I was still in the program—and so that’s where I started my first dental job and my career. That was entry level, and then I moved to a private clinic. I moved forward to a different clinic for about five years, then spent some time doing interviews, trying to find the right environment for me.
How did you become an instructor at Carrington?
Teaching was what I started out with (before dental assisting). On the job, I was always a lead dental assistant—teaching those who were fresh out of school, interns, and new hires, so teaching was a natural transition for me. I was actively looking for a teaching job when the position at the Pleasant Hill campus opened up, so I applied.
What is your favorite part about teaching now?
My favorite part is seeing someone overcome their struggles, watching it getting easier for them, seeing them become more positive—that’s the biggest thing. Helping them go from an, “I can’t,” to an, “I can,” mindset.
As an instructor, you have to lead the way, leave your problems at the door, and keep a positive, upbeat vibe. You have to show your students that the stress level can be great, but in a dental office, most of the time I’d have to say that people are smiling and having a good day; people are happy to be there.
What do you wish for your students to take away from their time in the program? Any words of advice?
I would advise them to treat each patient like a regular human. Remember their needs, the things you’d appreciate yourself: offer them lip balm or water. Help them out as they leave; don’t let them walk out with something in their hair or on their face. Little things like that. Make sure that you are treating people with kindness; if they are nervous, make them feel welcome—that helps them loosen up a bit. It really is about the small details. Every office does things a little differently—you have to be flexible, be positive, and always keep an open mind.