By Kate Wallace
After ten years at SCTCC, Kateri Mayer has learned more than a few things about teaching her students in the Dental Assistant program. The key? Out-of-the-box thinking.
In 2013, Kateri had some life changes that prompted her to think about a different way to use her Dental Assisting knowledge. She decided to apply to a faculty position at SCTCC.
“There weren’t a lot of jobs available, and I wanted to something a liiiittle bit more important,” she explained. Even though she was in a health-related field, she felt like it would be great to work with students and get them into a profession that gives back to the community and is also fulfilling.
When asked about how students have changed over the years, Kateri mentioned that they are definitely more hands-on. Her master’s program really helped her think outside the box more with teaching (though she admitted that she already is an outside-the-box thinker).
“They start out as first year students and scared to death not knowing what to expect. By the third or fourth week, things are starting to make sense. Just watching them grow into dental health professionals is very rewarding,” Kateri said.
In 2017, Kateri became the program director, and she’s been working to make a more student-centered classroom to help them thrive. Providing multiple methods of the same information so students understand is important alongside the hands-on learning.
It’s a fun experience for Kateri to see their progress. When they start taking dental impressions, the material gets everywhere and everyone laughs. That’s a part of the learning process that Kateri makes sure she provides.
The Dental Assisting students also take part in a lot of community connection opportunities like helping out with the YMCA. When they come back from dental hygiene instruction with children, the students are full of stories.
What does Kateri want the college to think about for the next 75 years? She laughs when she mentions a new dental clinic, but is serious when she explains that a new facility to accommodate both the assisting and hygiene programs at the same would be ideal.
Above all, though, she says what’s important is community: “A community based on human beings, everyone being nice to each other. That’s the environment that you learn in.”
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