Nicole Alvarez: Faculty Spotlight
CBD College is so excited to announce the launch of its newest program, Dental Assisting. The first class is scheduled to start November 14th, so we took the opportunity to talk with the DA Program Director, Nicole Alvarez. Read below to learn more about Mrs. Alvarez, her teaching style, and how she’s given back to the Dental Assisting community!
Have you always been in the dental field?
Yes! I went with a friend to meet with her admissions advisor at a college similar to CBD, and after learning more about the school I made the decision to enter their Dental Assistant program. At the time, I didn’t have a plan. I had braces in high school, and the dental assistants who worked in the orthodontist’s office seemed like they really enjoyed their job, so I thought I’d give it a go. I ended up enrolling, and I started three weeks after I graduated from high school! While I was in dental school, it really motivated me to take my prerequisites at a community college.
It was crazy because, in high school, I had horrible grades; I wasn’t always present. I didn’t have a plan because it didn’t seem like it mattered. Yet in Dental Assisting, I had perfect attendance, I was getting all A’s– it really made me want to continue my education. When I finished the program I was placed at a great extern site because I was one of the top students in my class. Because of that externship experience, I was hired right away and worked with a periodontist (a specialty that deals with the gums) for six years.
What led you to pursue instructing?
I thought if I could take my experience and help prepare students a little better and share that, that would be amazing. Since I’ve started I’ve really learned what doesn’t work and what does work when teaching Dental Assisting. Respect is a huge deal in the classroom and in the profession and I want to be able to provide the best experience for students and really help them.
My doctor I was working for decided he was going to retire. At that time I was working on my Bachelor’s (I had been sparked to continue my education even further). I applied for a night teaching position so I could focus on my education and teach nights. Within four months of teaching, I was hired to Program Director. Right after I got my Bachelor’s, I started my Master’s in Business and eventually became the Dean. If I hadn’t done Dental Assisting I don’t know who I would be or where I could be. Everything kind of just fell into place. You never know where it’s going to take you.
Who has been your greatest inspiration or mentor?
It’s changed so much over the years! I think the first mentor that I had that really lit the spark in me and made me think, “OK, there’s more that I can do,” is one of my Dental Assisting instructors, Melissa Campbell. She was also the Program Director there at that time. She was really cool and had a really good teaching style. I never felt like my questions were stupid. She explained why things worked the way they did. She and I would have one-on-one conversations; she was very inspirational.
After working in the dental office and beginning my career in education, I became really close with the Dental Assisting PD there and she became a huge inspiration to me. She was very no-nonsense and knew what she needed for her program, her staff, and her students. She made ME want to be more than just a teacher. I attribute a lot of my teaching and management style to her. She wanted everyone around her to learn and grow.
How are you involved with Dental Assisting outside of CBD College?
To be a Registered Dental Assistant you have to attend continuing– ed seminars every two years. I’m a member of California Association of Dental Assistant Teachers. They’re basically a group of DA teachers or ones that are involved in administrative positions, and they put on seminars at colleges that teach dental assisting. It’s a great opportunity to network. The town I’m from also has continuing– ed seminars, so I try to attend at least one seminar through the dental society there so I can keep in touch with them.
I have a lot of connections at the Dental Board of California which is the governing body for DA programs that are approved through them. In the past, I evaluated DA curriculums for programs that were applying for approval. I would also go to schools like CBD College and do on-site visits. Our program is currently waiting for approval. Once we’re approved, the first class of graduates can sit for their state board exam!
Do you have any advice for potential students interested in pursuing a career in dental assisting or healthcare in general?
Be professional and have a good personality. Our job is so much more than sucking spit out of a person’s mouth!