At Ross, we strive to put the best instructors possible into our classrooms. At Ross Medical Education Center in New Baltimore, Michigan, Noreen Bishoff is one of those instructors. Noreen is the Lead Instructor for the Dental Assistant program in New Baltimore. She brings to the classroom more than 40 years of experience in the dental field. In addition to this impressive understanding of the field, she also portrays the definition, the characteristics, and the attributes that all teachers should possess.
We sat down with Noreen to ask her a little bit about her experience at Ross and in the dental field.
How long have you been at Ross as an instructor?
Since June 2010, and still loving it!
How did you get your start in teaching and why is it important to you?
I feel it’s important to send out Dental Assistants that are able to communicate, have good chairside skills, and work in a career where you’re going to be a part of a team. I tell my students you’re either going to love it for a week, or for the rest of your life, and most of the people that i knew in the field were in the field for life. My students like to make jokes that I have dental catalogs on my bedside that I read at night. I try to instill that love for the field that I have in each one of my students.
What’s your favorite thing about being an instructor at Ross?
Getting new students, because then I have to switch my game up. That always makes things exciting, you have to come up with new games, new ways to present things. When I have to switch things up and see that light bulb go on, that’s what you really like to see with a student. I still have students that contact me now even that have graduated that tell me they still remember things that I say to them in the classroom.
What piece of advice do you try to convey to all of your students to help them succeed?
I ask them: “Do you want to be a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?” All three of those objects, once placed in water, will change. The only one of those three items that becomes stronger when placed in water is coffee. Carrots, when placed in boiling water, they’re still pretty resilient, but they start to get kind of mushy. The egg is very, very fragile, and when you put it into water, it changes. Each of them have strengths, but coffee is the one that gets stronger. Unless I get a student that doesn’t like coffee, then I have to rephrase it a little bit!
What are you passionate about personally and how does that help you reach your goals as an instructor?
Professionalism, that’s very important – and communication! I actually learn from my students sometimes. I tell them, “once you get done with school, don’t toss your books off a bridge, and be professional at all times.” You do have customer service as a part of the position, and no matter what happens in the office and no matter what a customer or patient says to you, it’s always important to stay as professional as possible.
Who inspires you to be great?
We have a great team here in New Baltimore; they always have my back and they’re always incredibly supportive of me and the students. If you have a good team to work with, that takes off a huge load of stress, no matter what goes on in the classroom.
Share a positive memory about your experiences at Ross that stands out to you. Why is that memory special to you?
Gosh, there are so many… There is one where I had a student with some personal issues while in the program, but she stuck it out, and I encouraged her to stay strong! Radiology wasn’t exactly her cup of tea when we first started the unit, but she stuck with it and when we got done with the unit, she was actually excelling at it, which was great because when she was placed in her field, she was in an endodontic office, which specializes in root canals, and you are required to take a lot of x-rays when working in that kind of office. Within a year, she had worked her way to being the office manager there, and she just contacted me the other day seeking more information about continuing her education, and she said “You were always an inspiration for me, help me decide what I should do next!”
There was another student, she was hired at the office that I worked at for almost 19 years before I began teaching at Ross. I told her it was a tough office to work at, but I knew she could do it because she was always focused in class. She told me about how her physician wanted her to pass the instruments exactly the way she was taught in class, and she nailed it and was so proud of herself! And I told her “I knew you would be able to!” I was so incredibly proud of her and all her hard work.
When did you first start working in the dental field? What inspired you to pursue this career?
I had an abscessed tooth that was extracted when I was about 10 years old. When it was removed, it popped out and landed on the floor, and I said to my hygienist, “Where’s that assistant?” So that was an inspiration. Also Dr. Richard Weiss, he encouraged me… I was in a convent school at the time, and he encouraged me to go to school and work for him when I came back from the convent. Continuing my education was very important, and that was because of his inspiration. He advised me to get my certificates, and so I did, and that’s what I tell my students too: “Be credentialed, and show the seriousness that you want to be in this career.” I prepare packets for my students who are taking credential exams, even though they can go online and get the answers. I like to make the packets and help them prepare for that test so they can be credentialed as well.
What are all the credentials you’ve earned so far?
I am a Certified Dental Assistant, or CDA, I have my RDA, which is an American Medical Technologist Registered Dental Assistant, and then I have my CPFDA, which is a Certified Preventive Function Dental Assistant. I also have my bachelors in Art History and Communication from Oakland University.
What is something most people don’t know about working as a dental assistant?
A lot of my students say that they didn’t know all of the things that Dental Assistants actually do on a day to day basis. You have to troubleshoot equipment, sterilize and maintain lab equipment, you have to do spore tests, set up trays and poor models, take x-rays, setup for specialists, and take vitals and medical history of patients. You can take care of insurance even! It’s surprising when students come to me and say “I didn’t know we could do all these things, I just thought Dental Assistants were the ones who sat on the side and just helped here and there when needed.” As a Dental Assistant, really you’re the right hand person to your doctor. Your doctor will depend on you a lot, and anything you can tell them about the patient will better assist them in making a proper diagnosis.
What advice would you give to a student who is looking to go into the dental assisting field, but hasn’t quite made up their mind yet?
I don’t softsoap it. I say that it’s a very intense program, but it’s going to afford you a lifetime career – it really will. Every day is different. Every day you have a different patient. Every day things are just a little bit different and always changing. You don’t even have to work in a general practice if you don’t want to. You can work in a specialty practice, or you can go into military service and earn a higher rank if you’re professionally trained, or you can work in insurance companies. There’s always something in dentistry; it’s always changing and always exciting.
What is the most rewarding part of working as a dental assistant?
Seeing your patients understand what they’re going through, how you communicate. The turnaround of their smile, when they mention that they haven’t been to a dentist’s office in 10 years and I always tell them “You’re here now!” It’s so great, the patient’s health can improve, their outlook on life is improved… The change in your patients, when you see your patients appreciate what you’ve done for them, that you have empathy for them, and you’re going to help them!
We asked some Ross staff and students about their experience with Noreen Bishoff. Here’s what they had to say:
“Mrs. Noreen Bishoff makes the learning environment seem less like school and more like a career.”
Sativa Roszczewski, Ross student
“Mrs. Bishoff makes learning fun because she likes to have everyone involved in the hands on portion of the class and makes jokes and references that make the class fun. Also because she takes the time out to make sure that everyone understands everything.”
Michael Gorski, Ross student
“Mrs. Bishoff has helped me gain the knowledge and wisdom that just about anyone struggling to go back to school should achieve. She has made lectures fun and that is something I never thought I would say, she has helped me feel ready to take my place in a dental office and I am forever grateful for what she has taught me.”
Susan Sear, Ross student
“Mrs. Bishoff makes the learning very fun and always keeps the class laughing and entertained making it a lot easier to retain important information.”
Miranda Booth, Ross student
“Mrs. Noreen makes class more than fun, her positive and energetic attitude is what tops her teaching ways. From lectures to clinic she finds ways to make it very interesting. Also to mention her wonderful rapping skills. Thank you for being a fantastic teacher always and expanding my knowledge on Dental Assisting!”
Amanda Palomba, Ross student
“The decision to go back to school wasn’t easy and I was very nervous being that I have been out of school for 17 years. Mrs. Bishoff made me feel welcome from day 1 and has made the process of getting back into school fun and easy to do. She is funny and some how manages to make lecture interesting. I don’t think I would be doing as well as I am if it wasn’t for her enthusiastic energy for dentistry.”
Amanda Kaczynski, Ross student
“Noreen is a quirky instructor who knows how to develop a fun energetic learning environment where students learn from a very experienced instructor while also having a good time!”
Tami Schabel, Career Development Representative
“Noreen cares deeply about her students and goes out of her way to build a bridge between the classroom and career services to ensure that the working relationship is based on a mutual respect.”
Peggy Goddu, Career Services Student Support Representative
“Creativity, inspiring, caring, empathetic, passionate, understanding, willingness to reflect, humility and team-player are just a few characteristics that come to mind when I think of Noreen and her avid educational philosophy. I observe Noreen’s passion for education and its surrounding elements on a daily basis. She has worked extremely hard to make her class fun and exciting. She provides a facilitative and interactive environment at all times; where her students are comfortable and are always looking forward to the next class session. I commend Noreen for always thinking outside of the box and for implementing ever changing avenues of content delivery that reach all learner types. Noreen is active within the community and does not hesitate for a second to incorporate community events, outside resources, field- trips, guest speakers, facilitative games and other teaching enhancements into her classroom.”
Tammy Stanson, Assistant Campus Director of Education
“Noreen is such a great instructor. Anytime I am at the campus, she is sharing with me some type of interesting activity she is doing with her class or singing some type of snappy tune that helps the students to remember what they are learning that module. I love that she chooses to share her gift of teaching at Ross. Her students are truly blessed to have her teaching them.”
Kris Furtaw, Regional Vice President