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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Dental Hygiene instructor has important message for students

January 20, 2015
Dental Hygiene instructor Angela Barnett
Dental Hygiene instructor Angie Barnett and daughter, Claire, enjoy decorating their new home.

Angela Barnett knows something about struggle. She grew up in a family where her parents, Ken and Barbara, worked all their lives in “Blue Collar America,” as she describes it. Although her parents never went to college, they had a different dream for Angela and her brother.

“They wanted a better life for me than what they had,” says Angie. “They were committed to giving me an education and helping me out as best they could.”

It is a life experience many SJVC students share, and it is what drives them to push harder toward their education goals. Angie has been in those very shoes and has lifted their weight to find her own success in the world she worked to create for herself and her 3-year-old daughter, Claire.

A big part of Angie’s role as Dental Hygiene instructor on the Ontario campus is the larger picture she hopes to give her students. Her “life lessons” are many. High among them:  “Let challenge become a bridge to the next thing,” she enthuses. “We are all here to make mistakes, but you’re not a bad person; move on from it. What did you learn from it?” she stresses.

Angie emphasizes the importance of education and the drive to continue to learn and grow in a profession. Every industry constantly expands in services and technology. The dental hygiene industry is a prime example. In that field for 16 years and a Dental Hygiene instructor at SJVC for the last 6 years, Angie has seen a lot of technical improvements in dental instruments and patient care, especially in periodontics, her area of specialty.

The new “cavitron” is an instrument that removes calculus – hard deposits – on teeth using a high rate of vibration, while a spray of water cools its tip. “Doing this by hand was very tedious, and this takes a lot of the mechanical stress away,” she says. A new anesthetic technique in wide use today deadens a large area with a single penetration, instead of the 2-3 injections that were previously required.

“Staying on top of your game in the profession of your choice is mandatory in order to get and keep a top position in your field,” says Angie.

She also stresses to her students the importance of finding mentors throughout their careers. “We are never going to know it all, and there will always be people who will have more experience,” says Angie. “Seek out mentors, someone you can look up to, who is your go-to for questions.” Angie has put this sage advice to work throughout her education and career. “I have had a long line of mentors, who allowed me to shine and grow.”

While all of this self-improvement and personal and professional development are at play, Angie has one more element that creates the perfect foundation for success.

“What I want my students to realize is that a career is going to be more that working Monday-Friday, 8 to 5,” she says. “I try to instill in everybody in any career the need to step outside, go beyond their careers, to help those less fortunate.”

Several times a year Angela Barnett takes a giant step away from her day-to-day responsibilities to volunteer with the Tzu Chi Foundation. Like the Red Cross, they travel the world setting up food banks, rescue efforts for disasters and community outreach efforts. One such service is free mobile dental care for those who cannot afford it on their own.

Angie encourages her students to volunteer so that they might “see the public side of dentistry,” she says. “Many of these patients have been waiting overnight to get any kind of treatment we are willing to offer.” Often, these volunteer opportunities plant important seeds of altruism in her eager students.

“Angie has a passion for teaching and deep dedication to the dental hygiene profession that she passes on and instills in our students,” says Leslie Nazaroff, Dental Hygiene Program Director.

Angela Barnett clearly loves what she is doing. “Watching people come in with a dream and leave with a complete success story, then reaching a career milestone in their lives…that’s really priceless,” she says.

Her students feel the love. For the third time, students have voted for Angie to be a keynote speaker at graduation. It is a show of trust and appreciation that is not lost on her.

“It is always a shocker…and always an honor,” says Angie. And, she strives to make her message one that will give them one last little push toward their highest success.

“What parting words do I have for them, as they go out into the real world?” she asks. “I will reassure them that they are ready to do this; they have a good foundation that they got here, and to trust that.”

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