At each of the Ross campuses, instructors in the classrooms are experienced in their fields and passionate about healthcare. Our goal is to equip our students to be as successful as possible in the field. We know that quality instructors go a long way in making that happen. One of those instructors is Kay Riffell, instructor in the Dental Assistant program at Ross Medical Education Center in Saginaw, Michigan. Kay cares deeply about her students and their future careers in the dental assisting field.
We sat down with Kay 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?
I’ve been at Ross since about August of 2008 – so nine years now!
How did you get your start in teaching and why is it important to you?
It’s kind of funny. There was an instructor here at the campus that found out there would be a dental program added to the campus, and she called me and said “Hey, I think you would be great at this!” That’s how I found out about the position, and then I decided to come in for an interview! I think it’s important because we change so many lives and I get to see that on a daily basis. I see such positive things that come from teaching.
What’s your favorite thing about being an instructor at Ross?
I think my favorite thing is when you see a student walk in for the very first time, and they’re nervous and they’re scared, but then you get to see that as each module goes by, they have grown, they have learned. Often they had also told you how much they felt they really could not do this. I think that really inspires me, and it’s encouraging to see that they’re fulfilling their dreams and finishing school. For some of them, that is huge! That means they go out and say “I did this!” and we’re all very proud of them for their hard work and reaching for their goals!
What piece of advice do you try to convey to all of your students to help them succeed?
It seems like often they come in with the attitude that they’re afraid or nervous, and so I always tell them that “You can do this!” I also like to sing a verse of a song to them by Rascal Flatts, “I will stand by you, I will see you through.” Students often laugh when I sing, but it’s true! I try to tell them that if they are willing to put in the effort, I’ve got their back and I will see them through!
What are you passionate about personally?
I think basically I always want an atmosphere of trying to help people and make people smile. When you make people smile, you improve their confidence and make them feel good, and that is a great feeling.
Share a positive memory about your experiences at Ross that stands out to you. Why is that memory special to you?
There are so many! There are many students who have had personal struggles, and coming to work sometimes is a struggle. There is one story of a student that sticks out to me. At the time she came to Ross, she was working maintenance and was having troubles in her private life. She ended up graduating near the top of her class and is now one of the top Dental Assistants and a manager at her practice. We also have many other students who have worked hard and gone into management positions as well. When you see those positive experiences and see how far they have come and how much they’ve grown, and how they have these awesome jobs, I think that’s such a success story. Before coming to Ross, many of these students didn’t have people in their lives to encourage them to do great things and to be there for them. They didn’t have someone to be a mentor, so it is a very rewarding feeling when you see the end result.
When did you first become a dental assistant? What inspired you to pursue this career?
I first became a Dental Assistant back in I think it was 1982, or 1984… I think it goes hand in hand with helping people. We see a lot of people come in, and when you can change people’s confidence level, fix their teeth, and help them smile, it’s life changing for a lot of patients that I have seen and dealt with, and it’s a great feeling to be a part of that.
What is something most people don’t know about working as a dental assistant?
It’s hard work, but it’s fulfilling. It changes peoples lives; you wouldn’t think that about a career but it really does have an impact.
What advice would you give to a student who is looking to become a dental assistant, but hasn’t quite made up their mind yet?
If you’re a people person, if you enjoy helping people’s confidence, if you’re wanting to educate people on healthy mouths, then this would be a great job for you. You kind of have to be a people person and like working with all sorts of people, and you also have to have a caring spirit.
What is the most rewarding part of being a dental assistant?
It’s about helping people, and it’s not just a job – it’s a career. You get to meet such a variety of people, and you get to help them. You get to become friends with many of your patients as you see them all the time and build relationships with them. I’ve been in the field for about 33 years now, and you get to know people and their families and watch them grow over the years. It’s awesome seeing them go through life, and you almost get to experience it with them over the years.
We asked Campus Director Ginger Rezmer about her experience with Kay Riffell. Here’s what she had to say:
Kay has a caring spirit for the students. She motivates them to set goals and achieve them. She encourages the students to do their best and is gratified and fulfilled by their successes. She has many years of experience and loves to share her knowledge.
Ginger Rezmer, Campus Director, Saginaw campus