Dental hygiene alumnae bring knowledge, experience back to teach current students

By Guilford Technical Community College

Guilford Technical Community College’s (GTCC) dental hygiene program stands as a beacon of excellence, largely thanks to the commitment and expertise of its alumnae instructors. With a deep-rooted connection to the college and a wealth of real-world experience, these instructors are shaping the next generation of dental hygienists with passion and dedication.

Rachael Walls, an adjunct faculty member and clinical instructor at GTCC, brings over a decade of teaching experience to the table. Graduating from the dental hygiene program in 1999, Walls initially embarked on a fulfilling career in periodontics. However, her journey came full circle when she returned to GTCC in 2014, driven by a desire to give back and share her clinical experience with aspiring hygienists.

Reflecting on her time as a student, Walls reminisced about the challenges she faced and the lessons she learned.

“It was great. It was very challenging,” she recalled. “Because it was so difficult, it made me a much better clinical caregiver.”

Brooke Hutchins, another alumna of GTCC’s dental hygiene program, joined the faculty in September, bringing with her a plethora of experience from both private practice and academia. Inspired by the quality education she received at GTCC, Hutchins felt compelled to return and pay it forward.

“I had a really good experience here,” she shared. “I felt like I was prepared to go into the working field. That’s another reason I wanted to come back here, because I wanted to give them the experience I received.”

Hutchins’ dedication to her students is evident in her open-door policy and her willingness to share her own experiences, including moments of doubt and uncertainty.

“Sometimes, I have a little PTSD when students are going through certain things,” she admitted. “But I try to use my experience to explain it to the students in new ways.”

Laura Lemmer, another dental hygiene instructor who graduated from GTCC, joined the program faculty in January 2023. She uses her experience in GTCC’s program to relate to her students as well.

“My goal is to impart compassion and understanding to the current dental hygiene and dental assisting students. I often share anecdotes of my time in ‘this very clinic’ or ‘this very chair,’ and my successes and failures while a GTCC dental hygiene student,” said Lemmer. “Hopefully, the explanation of my time as a student will help the current students understand that they are not alone in their feelings of frustration and that they can absolutely be one of the best dental hygienists and dental assistants to graduate from the GTCC program.”

Lemmer also thinks that teaching with other alumnae of the program helps to keep the educational experience consistent for the students.

Walls, Hutchins, and Lemmer all emphasize the strong sense of community among the instructors at GTCC, many of whom are fellow alumni. This sense of camaraderie fosters a supportive environment where students can thrive and grow.

“It’s a big sense of family because we all went through this together and came back to teach,” Walls noted. “Now that we have all come back together, we glean information from each other’s backgrounds and experiences, and that simply makes each of us better educators and, frankly, better people” explained Lemmer. “We all achieved a common goal, and we all now share the common goals of being the best instructors we can be and providing the best education to the current GTCC dental hygiene and dental assisting students.”

As GTCC continues to produce top-tier dental hygienists, the contributions of dedicated alumnae instructors like Walls and Hutchins remain invaluable. Their unwavering commitment to excellence ensures that future generations of hygienists are equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed in a dynamic and demanding field.

This article originally appeared here.

Guilford Technical Community College

is located in Jamestown, North Carolina.