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Faculty FrontDoor

Rebekah Pittman

Professor of Dental Hygiene

My dental hygiene career shifted from private practice to education because of an extraordinary individual who gave me the confidence and encouragement to desire more from my career. One year after graduation, the director/chair of the dental hygiene program from which I graduated, invited me to come back and teach as a clinical instructor. At the time, this offer felt overwhelming since I did not possess the confidence or experience to take on the role of a teacher. As I gained more experience and self-confidence, the concept of teaching was never far from my mind. This one conversation, early in my career, eventually spurred me to pursue education.
After five years of clinical dental hygiene, I decided I needed more challenges and also a way to give back to the dental hygiene community. In search of this, I stepped through the doors of the Valencia College dental hygiene clinic and immediately found what my career and life had been missing. Passing on my experience, expertise, and a passion for dental hygiene to students was the fulfillment I was searching for. I entered into dental hygiene education, as adjunct faculty, with a desire to help make positive changes in students’ lives by encouraging them to accomplish their dreams and goals. I have been at Valencia College for nine years as an adjunct professor and currently, I have been granted the role of full time tenure track professor.
Working with the same students for two years, provides a unique opportunity to assess students’ retention of skills and knowledge while reinforcing weaker areas.
I utilize my fifteen years of clinical experience to provide examples for students to relate didactic concepts to patient care. I believe my primary responsibility to my students is to prepare them to be ethical, compassionate, and clinically competent dental hygienists. These positive characteristics are introduced through the laboratory courses where students practice clinical procedures on each other. This experience helps the student develop compassion and empathy for their future patients. Ethics are not always an easy aspect of patient care to pass on to a student. I use my personal experiences and philosophy to encourage and guide students to make ethical decisions. A competent dental hygienist requires critical thinking and processing of information in order to properly gather data, analyze data, develop a comprehensive treatment plan, implement the treatment plan, and then evaluate the treatment outcomes. Students learn these skills best through repetition, which is integrated throughout the entire dental hygiene program curriculum.
I have discovered that students learn best from being involved and having hands on activities, therefore; in my classroom, I try to create a learning environment, rather than a teaching environment. Through my educational experience and then my subsequent teaching experience, I have found that I personally favor visual and kinesthetic learning, rather than auditory. In the beginning, I was more comfortable teaching students by showing them a concept, rather than verbally describing it. In order to successfully reach all students, I have had to develop a more broad and descriptive vocabulary to verbally “walk” a student through a concept or procedure instead of just demonstrating it. This was difficult at first, but observing other faculty who favor auditory teaching and learning has helped me grow in this area. Now I feel more confident teaching all types of learners whatever their preference.
Incorporating ways for students with all learning style preferences to succeed and excel in the dental hygiene curriculum is imperative. Cooperative learning exercises, group work, interactive lectures, and case studies are used in my didactic courses to help reinforce the concept of a learning environment and reach all types of learners. Using demonstrations, group pods, discussions, and role-play in lab courses also helps students who may not understand a concept or procedure. I am passionate about student learning and expect them to use critical thinking skills rather than just repeating information back to me.
Dental hygiene students are at the core of my classroom and they play a significant role in their own learning. I expect students to come to class on time and be prepared. This may include reading the text prior to class, completing an assignment or researching information for a group discussion. I also try to instill a sense of teamwork in each student by focusing on the students’ role as part of a team. This is accomplished through group work and collaboration of ideas. The readiness assessment quizzes include a group component for answering the questions; therefore the group is dependent upon each other for part of their grade. Because students do not want to let their classmates down, they are usually better prepared for these quizzes and consequently class as well. In addition to quizzes and discussion, I use daily technique evaluations in my lab courses to provide students with formative feedback.
In my laboratory courses, students practice skills and procedures on student partners. This helps students learn compassion and gain empathy needed for patient care. The feedback students receive from each other is invaluable to their learning. Peer feedback and evaluation is a significant part of learning and is evident in my courses as students regularly complete peer evaluations for competencies and also for group projects. Dental hygiene students don’t just learn from me, they learn from each other, which fosters a team player attitude that they take with them to their future employment.

Phone: 407-582-1570


Office: West Campus

Location: AHS 120

Monday: AHS 120 9:00-10:00AM
Tuesday: AHS 120 9:00-10:00AM
Wednesday: AHS 120 1:00-4:00PM
Thursday: AHS 120 3:00-4:00PM
Friday: AHS 120 9:00-10:00 AM & 1:00-4:00PM