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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Medical Assisting instructor switched careers just like many SJVC students

October 6, 2016
Nicole Weiss didn’t realize how much she yearned to teach until she stepped into her first SJVC Medical Assisting classroom.

Nicole Weiss worked for several years as a Registered Medical Assistant and Registered Phlebotomy Technician before she dug a little deeper into her career dreams. “I’d been doing these jobs for a time,” she said, “and had to ask myself…where did I want to go with this?”

She had a background of running educational groups in the medical field, so there was a good foundation for a pivot toward teaching. It suddenly made perfect sense. She remembers telling her kindergarten teacher that she, too, wanted to be a teacher.

“It was coming back to me that I always wanted to be a teacher when I was growing up, so I thought, you know what…I should try this route.”

As a 1997 Medical Assisting graduate from SJVC’s Fresno campus, she was immediately drawn to a teaching position open at her old alma mater. Seven years after her own graduation, she would become a part of the Medical Assisting program team.

Nicole will celebrate 12 years with SJVC this December and feels as though she was born to teach. Her students agree. “Ms. Weiss is an amazing instructor,” says Jessica Kwiatkowski, Medical Assisting student. “She is always willing to help you out in class whenever you need it, and I am happy to have her as an instructor my first module.”

“Jessica’s comment makes me realize that this is why I do what I do,” says Nicole. “You never know when you’re touching someone’s life; but to have a part in that, makes you feel good inside and is very rewarding.”

Nicole’s teaching style seems to bring out the best in her Medical Assisting students. “I try to stay as structured as possible, because I know students need that,” she says. “I like to do a lot of interactive projects in class because I know that they are going to have a good time; and how can you learn if you’re not having fun! They retain the information better; if you’re bored, information doesn’t stick with you as well.”

Nicole wants students to leave her class with two very important mindsets: “First off, always be professional, always be setting the example…in attitude and the way you look. Second, always be ready to learn something new. Nobody knows everything and the medical field changes every day. Be ready to accept those changes.”

Nicole makes a strong commitment to her students and their success. “I think that this is why SJVC is set apart from other places,” she says. “Other schools, if you don’t come to class, they don’t care. If you don’t come to my class, I’m going to try to get ahold of you and see what’s going on and if there’s anything I can do to help.”

Life threatens to interfere with many students’ good plans for higher education and a better life for themselves and their families. “There are lots of times when students are having trouble in school, and it has nothing to do with school,” says Nicole. “It’s something in their personal lives, and they just need a shoulder to cry on.” And possibly, a good teacher to help steer them back toward their vision.

“I try to show them the value of their efforts; that whatever they put into it, they will get out of it. The hardest part is making that a priority. And when you help them realize that, and the lightbulb goes on…that’s the best part,” says Nicole.

Nicole is a strong advocate for higher education – and San Joaquin Valley College.

She met her husband, Angel, while they were both students on the Fresno campus. Angel was in the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration program attending days while Nicole had evening classes.

Angel now has his own contracting business and credits SJVC with giving him what he needed to realize his own career ambitions. “It 100% helped him as a contractor,” says Nicole.

Next month, their 21-year-old son, Matthew, will also start the HVAC-R program, shadowing his father’s footsteps. Matthew works part-time for his dad, who made it clear that SJVC’s HVAC program was a necessary next step.

Nicole says, “My husband tells him, ‘You’re going to SJVC…and tell others, because they have the best (HVAC-R) program.’”

Nicole is determined to help elevate customer service standards through her well-trained students. She feels that, in medical offices in particular, it is too easy to lose a sense of professionalism. She tells her students, “Treat others how you want to be treated; how you would want them to treat your grandmother or your newborn baby. You have to be that person that acts how you want yourself and your loved ones to be treated.”

She is certain that what you give can have a giant impact on others.

“People have helped me in my life, so now I’m going to help someone else, and they’re going to help someone else. And, we’ll have a better world that way.”

The life lessons Nicole is sharing with her students is a bonus they hadn’t counted on, but will undoubtedly draw from throughout their careers.


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