From Student to Teacher: Faculty Q&A with Dental Assisting instructor Jennifer Jeffers
Jennifer Jeffers’s first job was working as a temp in a dental office, where she had the unique opportunity to closely observe dentists and their team at work. That experience piqued an interest that would lead her to enroll in the Dental Assisting program at SJVC and graduate in 2019. Now, Jennifer is a Dental Assisting instructor at SJVC Fresno, making the classroom a positive, fun place to learn.
How did you know you wanted to become a dental assistant?
I had never thought much about dental before working at the dental office. But when I started to observe, it was so much more interesting than I had realized. I loved reading the x-rays and working with people. I really enjoyed helping patients, and they often told me I made them more comfortable. I knew then that I wanted to go to school for it.
How did you decide on the Dental Assisting program at SJVC?
I had looked at other dental assisting programs, but the one at SJVC was more hands on; they really train you. The setup of the training dental office on campus is so different from other programs; it’s more like a real, actual office. I felt I’d be more prepared, training in that environment.
Where did you do your externship? What was that experience like?
I did my externship in Fresno, at an orthodontics and general dentistry office. They gave me a lot of training, including how to properly sterilize the instruments, and I practiced the skills I learned during the Dental Assisting program. I liked having even more hands-on experience in a real dental setting, working with patients.
I was hired from my externship, which was great. Then I found another opportunity with an oral surgeon and I worked there for two years, where I also earned my OSMA (Oral Surgery and Maxillofacial Assistant) certificate.
What was your favorite part of the Dental Assisting program? What was the most challenging part?
My classmates were my favorite part of the program; they made it an overall fun experience. There was never a dull moment; I was always excited to learn something new about dental and then experience doing it. My classmates and I were close; we studied together, made flashcards, did Quizlets, and at home we’d create a team setting and practice together.
I would say the most challenging part of the program was toward the end when I was leaving amazing classmates, teachers, and the whole environment. You get used to it, it’s an everyday routine, then one day it’s over and it feels nostalgic. I never really struggled because I had the right instructors!
How did you become an instructor at SJVC? What is your favorite part about your job?
I kept in touch with the Dental Assisting Program Director at SJVC Fresno after graduating, and she reached out to see if I would be interested in teaching. I hadn’t yet given serious thought into becoming a teacher, but in discussing it with her, I thought it would be really fun and decided to go for it.
I started working as an instructor in the Dental Assisting program in November of 2022; I love it. I want to give my students the same great experience I had here, or better. I try to stay enthusiastic and focus on making each day fun, making them want to come to class.
My students are my favorite part of the job—seeing them learn, seeing what they are grasping, and being part of it all is really touching. They keep me motivated! I am still in college myself, too—I am getting my associate degree in biology, and then I want to enroll in the Dental Hygiene program at SJVC Visalia. In the future, I’d also like to obtain my bachelor’s degree in biology.
Do you have any words of advice for someone who is just beginning the program, or for someone who isn’t yet sure if it’s the right program for them?
My advice for those just beginning the program: show up on time or early, take notes, and make flashcards. For those not sure if the program is for them: ask to observe in a dental setting or ask to observe at SJVC. The students here are happy—and that’s what they’ll see.
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