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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

From Student to Teacher: Faculty Spotlight with Dental Assisting Instructor Amanda Villalba

March 9, 2023

It was not that long ago that Amanda Villalba was like so many of her Dental Assisting program students: trying to lock onto a career that would position her toward making a good living in a respected field, that wouldn’t take extensive education and training and would fulfill her need to interact with and help others.

What Amanda didn’t imagine at that time was that she might one day be training others to get to that same place. As a faculty member for SJVC’s Dental Assisting program on the Hesperia campus, Amanda provides information, guidance, and support for students well on their way toward their own success in her field.


How did you make the leap from Dental Assisting student to instructor?

I always thought of myself as being good at teaching. I’m young enough to understand where our students are coming from and can break information down to where they can better understand it. I’m good at coming to their level to show them the right way to do something.


What kind of experience did you have to take on this important role?

I was a student in this same program not that many years ago.

I have worked in the front office at a pediatric dental office as a RDA then moved to the back office at another dental office. I can instruct DA students on chairside manner for their patients, how to assist the dentist/doctor in abnormal situations such as medical emergencies and that there are circumstances you have to be aware of. I love that I can instill my knowledge in students as far as being a good Dental Assistant out in the field.


How would you describe a typical day in the program?

We balance what students learn in class with hands-on experience in labs. And our labs are pretty impressive. The first time students see it (usually on a campus tour before enrolling), they’re eyes get big. When I first saw it (as an enrolling student), it really intrigued me. Other Dental Assisting programs I’d visited didn’t have a laboratory.

In labs, our students practice techniques on Dexter, a mannequin with teeth. We also recruit friends and family members to practice on.


What do you most hope to give your students?

I want them to leave with as much confidence as they can. Validation of their own skills feeds confidence. I see where they need growth and give them effective feedback so that we can work on that together.

You can tell when students are unsure of themselves, and you can see when they are positive they ‘have it’ and are ready to move forward.


What is your greatest inspiration to teach?

Watching my students in the lab and seeing the hands-on skills and that they’re fully understanding what they’re doing inspires me. And just knowing that they’re going to be good Dental Assistants in the world.


What do Dental Assisting students learn during externships? 

So many students feel more confident after they’ve spent some time chairside with a doctor. The doctors take it slow with them because they know they are still learning. They learn how they should rest their arms when they’re working chairside on a patient – not to hang all over the patient. They also learn appropriate assistance for the dentist.

When they come back from externship, they have a bunch of stories about feeling really comfortable and some are a lot more confident. They’re having comfortable conversations with patients, staff, and doctors and everything is flowing better than when they first started. They are more eager to get out into the field.


What do Dental Assisting students frequently struggle with?

It can be hard the last few weeks balancing school, externship, and family life. I tell them, ‘It’s only a few hours out of your day that’s going to help you for a lifetime.’


Are credential testing opportunities provided and encouraged for Dental Assisting students?

A Certificate of Completion in Dental Assisting is awarded upon successful completion of SJVC’s program. SJVC will reimburse the cost of the examination to graduates who pass within one year of graduation and provide proof of licensure. In our last module we provide a study guide for students who sit for the test. Students who pass that test become more independent and we do encourage our students to test. Most of our Dental Assisting students go on to get their registration.


What are your own career aspirations?

As of right now, I love the position I’m in. And, if I ever get the chance to be the Dental Assisting Program Director, I would love that! At some point in the next 10-20 years I want to get my Dental Hygienist credential. When that time comes, I can do my job here and attend the Dental Hygiene program at the same time (offered at a SJVC campus in Ontario). But there’s no hurry.

Right now it’s figure out little things to do in the classroom to be an even more effective teacher.

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