#1StudentNWI: Flossing away the school year with Dental Assisting at the Hammond Area Career Center

#1StudentNWI: Flossing away the school year with Dental Assisting at the Hammond Area Career Center

What’s recently happened?

The Dental Assisting class is a two year program that offers six high school credits. In this class students are prepared for a career in dental assisting from day one.

Students learn a variety of skills such as patient care, sterilization procedures, laboratory responsibilities and patient instruction. Currently, the first year students are learning how to mix cement for oral procedures and will work their way into making teeth molds.

The first year students are beginning to wrap up learning their skills and will begin to review everything they learned this year in the next few weeks. 

First year students who choose to return next year will refine the same skills that they learned the first year and have the opportunity to intern at local dental facilities.

Current second year students are the first class able to do this since the pandemic began. As learning starts to fall back into a new normal, students have the opportunity to return to some of the hands-on training that has been missed the last two years. 

Second year students have the opportunity to work in the field at dental offices in the region four days a week Monday through Thursday. They are expected to report back to the Career Center for their regular classes every Friday. 

What’s coming up?

The state competition for SkillsUSA kicks off Friday, April 8. Students will be heading to Indianapolis early Friday morning and will kick off their competition weekend that afternoon.

Participants will spend the night in Indianapolis and head to the Indiana State Fairgrounds early Saturday morning. They will compete Friday and Saturday for a chance to secure their spot at the national level.

Students involved in most Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes are encouraged to compete in the SkillsUSA events. These events open up a variety of scholarship opportunities in addition to giving students positive exposure to colleges and technical schools in their respective fields. Nationals will be held in June in Atlanta, Georgia this year.

Students will find out Saturday evening at the awards ceremony if they secured a spot in Nationals or if they were chosen for a SkillsUSA Officer Position. State Officers for SkillsUSA represent students across the state who are involved in CTE programs. These officers take trips to see our political leaders and exhibit why CTE programs need necessary funding in order to keep these programs available to a range of students. 

Staff spotlight

Kristine Johnson is the Dental Assisting teacher at the Area Carer Center (ACC). Johnson has been teaching at the ACC for four years now. Prior to this she worked in the dental industry Monday through Thursday for 33 years. For eight years, prior to coming over to the ACC, she taught on Fridays at Indiana University Northwest. 

“I’ve always wanted to teach,” Johnson said, “The former teacher needed to leave and she contacted me. I worked with her prior for quite a few years and she knew I wanted to teach.” 

Johnson enjoys her job and it is apparent in multiple aspects of her teaching. Johnson encourages her students to ask questions and observe in depth while guiding them on a path to success. 

“I like watching these kids come in knowing nothing and they are unsure about the program, and then everything starts clicking. They start enjoying it, even loving it, and they end up staying in the field,” Johnson said. 

Not much affected this class during the pandemic. This class is very infection control orientated, so in turn the pandemic acted as an additional learning experience to show how to prevent the spread of infections. 

Student spotlight

Gina Lopez is a senior at the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology (HAST) and is in her second year of the Dental Assisting program. Lopez joined this class to learn a wider variety of skills in her education. She was interested in looking at the different fields the ACC had to offer. 

“In my opinion, different is always better,” Lopez said, “Doing this made me think that I could do more than I had imagined with my life.”

At the ACC students have the opportunity to connect with students across over ten different schools. Students are able to build connections with one and other not only in their CTE program, but across multiple programs offered at the ACC. 

“It makes me become more social, which helps especially in the dental field because you have to be social and be able to open up a lot. Being here really helps that and makes me feel comfortable and well prepared,” Lopez said. 

Lopez is currently interning at a local dental office. During the internship she gets the opportunity to interact with actual patients and practice the skills they have learned and perfected the last two years.

After completing this class Lopez hopes to continue her career in the dental field at an office nearby. She plans to get her start as a dental assistant and progressively work her way up.