Open Wide for a Wide-Open Career Opportunity

February 23, 2021

Kristen Ziegler started her technical college journey a mere six weeks after graduating from high school. By 21, she had graduated with her associate’s degree in Dental Hygiene, and for the ensuing 17 years, she’s worked in the industry as both a dental assistant and dental hygienist. A self-described “driven life-long learner,” she has since completed her bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene. Next spring, Kristen will graduate with a master’s degree in Career and Technical Education from UW-Stout. 

Kristen, a woman with brown shoulder length hair wearing blus medical scrubs poses with a dental mannekin

Kristen joined BTC at the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year and is the lead instructor for the dental assistant program and will teach in the new dental hygienist program, anticipated to launch at Blackhawk in 2021-22. During her first year at BTC, Kristen has added hybrid and MyEdChoice classes to her previous teaching experiences of traditional labs and lectures.

“Learning Zoom and Yuja have eased the burden caused by the pandemic,” she explained. “I’ve also learned to be more flexible to promote student success during such an uncertain time.” Along with these flexibilities, Kristen appreciates how Blackhawk provides a sense of community.

She continued, “Being a smaller technical college, students have the opportunity to ‘know the experts’ at the college.” Students see their professors at many larger institutions once a week in a large lecture hall and mostly interact with teaching assistants for questions and labs. At BTC, the instructor is who you see in every class and every lab. Instructors are also connected to the workforce and the community, as well as academics. This experience means that they bring real-world skills, examples, and opportunities into every educational encounter.

Now is the time for students to consider a career in dental care. “In my 17 years in the industry, I have never seen such a demand for skilled dental assistants and dental hygienists before,” said Kristen.  “The industry is evolving and growing exponentially, and job placement post-graduation has never been so high!”

Dental assistants do far more than assist dentists as they treat and examine patients. With this degree, students could also manage a dental office, coordinate patient scheduling and bookkeeping, man the front desk as the receptionist or office manager, work as a dental lab technician, dental treatment coordinator, or as a dental specialty assistant. In Blackhawk’s newly remodeled, high-tech lab, students will experience a fantastic educational environment with the latest equipment and technology. Dental concepts are introduced and then supported with activities that give the well-rounded training needed.

Kristen has stayed busy embracing time at home with her husband and their seven-year-old son during the pandemic by playing board games and enjoying the snowy Wisconsin weather. Demonstrating her commitment to life-long learning, she’s happy to proclaim, “I’ve even expanded my knowledge of Pokémon and Minecraft!”

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