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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Dental Hygiene students in degree programs groomed for success – even during coronavirus threat

February 23, 2021
Dental Hygiene students in degree programs groomed for success – even during coronavirus threat2

Dental Hygienists who earn their Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in San Joaquin Valley College’s Dental Hygiene programs know what they can count on from staff and faculty to support their success.

“Two of the major things that set SJVC Dental Hygiene programs apart from others is our attention to students and the family relationship we build with them,” says Angie Barnett, Dental Hygiene Program Director on the Ontario campus. “We are a small group of 20-30 students, so we end up really getting to know them and treasuring those relationships.”

Staff and faculty take a pro-active approach to intercept those obstacles that might stand in the way of Dental Hygiene students’ classroom interaction, learning and advancement. “We check on our students every week and if we see someone struggling with grades or personal problems, we see what we can do to help them,” says Angie. If there is an academic problem, extra tutoring is freely provided. “In most universities students have to pay for tutoring, if it is even offered.”

SJVC also wants to make certain that its education process is student-savvy. “We take the time to update courses and make sure they are appealing to all different learning styles,” says Angie. “We have to evolve to our student needs and career preparedness. We’re not teaching the same way we were 10 or 15 years ago. And it takes dedicated instructors who are capable of introspection and reflection to be able to do that.”

This focus and energy are apparent in every classroom.

“You can go into any one of these courses and see they are not just lecturing and using PowerPoint. Instead of just watching and taking notes our students are actively involved in critical thinking and participating in active discussions and activities. We continue to solicit feedback from students so that our courses continue to evolve with every term.”

Dental Hygiene classroom and laboratory environments maintain a powerful learning dynamic. That live action was a strong driver toward successful education.

Then the CoVid-19 pandemic permeated the country and threatened to put it all at a tilt when comfortably filled classrooms were considered a risk.

“Both faculty and students had to turn on a dime,” says Angie. “One day we were on campus and everything was fine, and the next day they were training us (staff and faculty) online.” As Dental Hygiene Program Director, it was Angie’s responsibility to guide her staff, faculty and students toward a smooth transition from classroom to remote studies.

“The different protocols that we had to follow evolved and changed every week, and some people were not completely comfortable,” says Angie. “But we’re making it work. We are reaching out to help each other, and my department is really excellent with that.”

It is most important that Dental Hygiene students trust both the new education format and the outcome. “We have a great group of students and remind them to trust the process,” says Angie. “We know what they’re going through, and they know we have their back. My team (staff/faculty) has done amazing things; they embody student achievement, and I can’t praise them enough.”

That first group of Dental Hygiene students to segue to remote studies held strong. “Not a single student had to drop out,” says Angie. “They held their faith in us – and in their own abilities. And the success rate of the students on their Clinical Board exams said a lot about SJVC’s success of the Dental Hygiene program.”

Angie had been preparing for this kind of challenge and leadership opportunity all her adult career. Having earned her Bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene and Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership and spent ten years working in private dental specialty offices, she was at the top level of her profession. It was a natural inclination for her to want to share her wealth of knowledge and experience with others.

“I always wanted to teach,” she admits. That inclination was actualized when SJVC offered her a Dental Hygiene faculty position with the intention to groom her for a leadership role in that program. She began her tenure as a clinical instructor before quickly moving to senior clinical coordinator. “I was mentored for that leadership role right away.”

When the Dental Hygiene Program Director retired a year ago, Angie had been mentored by that director to assume that role. She takes that new position and the weight of its responsibilities to heart.

“The most important responsibilities of this position are student success and faculty success,” she offers. “Another is to always be in compliance with governing bodies to remain an accredited (Dental Hygiene) program.”

Angie is reinvigorated with every student who reaches his or her career goal. She recalls a recent occasion when twenty SJVC Dental Hygiene students took their Clinical Board Exam on campus. An exam team came in and set up for the 2.5-hour test, observing social distancing protocol. Test-taking students were nervous, but excited. Their confidence was solid. “They had a 100% pass rate*,” Angie exclaims. “To see their faces and the proof of their labor, oh my gosh, we were over the moon.”

All of the good advice she had repeated to students over the many months of balancing coronavirus cautionary mandates with effective education and training seem to have landed. “I always tell them, ‘Be a warrior, not a worrier’, says Angie. “Don’t worry about things you can’t control. It’s a constant struggle to remember that, but we’re all here to remind each other.”

Angie gets her own best advice from her mom, Barbara. That advice is always close at hand as Barbara lives with Angie and her 9-year old daughter, Claire. Deciding recently to share a home has enriched all their lives and helps them to adjust to losing Angie’s dad, Ken, three years ago.

“My parents have been very supportive in my education and also helping me raise my daughter so that I can get a Master’s degree and work all of these hours. We are a team; we stick together and take care of each other.”

Sometimes Angie likes to go out into the backyard of the multigenerational home they share and enjoy the sanctuary of the pool and a little solitude. “Sometimes it’s 10:00 or 11:00 o’clock at night and when you are a Program Director there are texts and emails.” As she walks toward the backdoor, she might hear her mom’s whispered caution, “Don’t take that phone outside.”

Good advice runs in the family.

*SJVC prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program.

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