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Faculty Spotlight: Carol Wooten

Wooten, CarolOur next faculty spotlight is on Carol Wooten, Program Coordinator for the School of Health Sciences and Instructor for the Dental Assisting program at Northwestern College. This program is new to Northwestern College, with the first class starting in April 2017. Carol could not be more excited to utilize her experiences in the dental field, as well as her years of teaching, to bring a quality program to students. She started working at Northwestern College in October of 2016 but has seven total years of experience in higher education. On top of that, she has an incredible twenty-five years working in the dental field as a dental assistant and office manager. Carol’s own educational background consists of schooling in North Carolina for dental assisting and dental radiology. She has a certification in dental radiology and is also a CDA (Certified Dental Assistant) through the DANB (Dental Assistant National Board). She is also a member of the ADAA (American Dental Assistant Association). Because her passion for teaching is just as strong as her passion for learning and personal growth, she is also currently completing her Bachelor’s degree in Early Child Education. In an endearing story, Carol explained that her inspiration to continue her Bachelor’s, and specifically in early child education, was thanks to her grandson. Being a young child, he is so eager to learn. This experience and program has only enhanced her passion of teaching those who are just as enthusiastic to learn, regardless of what age. “I can honestly say I think I was made to teach,” Carol explained. “My grandson is the one who made me realize I should be a teacher because I am patient. I love it when people want to learn and they are there with an open mind to receive it”.

Carol’s background has not necessarily been traditional or linear. She actually started working in the healthcare/dental industry even before starting higher education. Right after high school she started working as a dental assistant for her cousin. She realized how much she enjoyed working in this industry and decided to start taking classes to help with her career. After working in the field for so long, she discovered her passion for teaching, as well. She noticed that students who came to her office for their externships were unfortunately showing a discrepancy in what they knew and what they should be able to do. Jokingly she told co-workers that when she left the office she was going to teach dental assisting so that students could get hired and be successful. Turns out that when she left in 2010, that’s exactly what she did.

“I have a genuine passion for teaching,” she explains. Teaching is currently her main focus however, she also continues to occasionally help out with some dentists when in need, if they are low on staff, mainly on the weekends. “I want to stay abreast in the dental field. Things change on a daily basis. I want students to get more than what they’re paying for”. This makes Carol such a valuable asset for her students – she still works in the field to provide students the most up-to-date information and is also still a student herself. She is truly coming from a genuinely empathetic, knowledgeable and understanding place when teaching.

Carol will be teaching the first course of the program, Orientation to Dental Assisting, as well as Dental Anatomy and Record Keeping. She is so proud of this program at Northwestern College, explaining that the way they have this program laid out will allow the students to be prepared to work as a dental assistant. “This particular program is designed to teach them everything from A to Z”. Specific skills students can look forward to developing will be working with digital and traditional x-rays, learning all of the different dental material used in practice, how to mix and prepare materials for the dentist and much more. Northwestern College has some of the most current technology and equipment. When students go out into the field, they will be able to utilize the equipment and software in their office because they will have experienced hands-on practice in their program. However, the most important and special skill that students will learn is something Carol calls “chairside manners”. Carol goes above and beyond to teach her students more then what is in the textbook. From her years of experience in the field, she explains that knowing how to comfort, understand and listen to the patient is key. Sometimes problems that clients express may not even be dental related, but as a dental assistant it is not just about the day in and day out responsibilities of the job. Overall, it is more about personalized patient care.

Something else Carol loves sharing with her students is the Chicago Dental Society Mid-Winter Meeting. People from all over the United States come for this convention. The convention has a great deal of continuing education courses, an open showroom of new dental products and equipment and, a student favorite, a lot of freebies – toothpaste, samples and lots of fun stuff. Being a dental student you are able to go for free. Many offices take their entire staff because it is incredibly educational and also a lot of fun.

Since the first group of students are starting the program this April, Carol stresses some words of wisdom for both prospective and current students. Carol fervently believes that everyone at Northwestern College is there to make sure the students get a quality education. That way, when they get out into the field they can see themselves as professionals. They will be learning from some of the best professionals in the field who will encourage them and make sure that they are prepared. Also, that there is such a demand for dental assistants and, if students come with an open mind, learn the material they are being taught and develop an interest in not only dental assisting, but also for helping and caring for people, they will find they have a career. Dentists are looking for assistants that have hands-on skills but who also that have that special personality. Carol, and Northwestern College, are qualified and excited to help students become just that.