Dani Carroll exudes positive energy and passion for education. Anyone who meets Carroll is mesmerized by her humor, her warmth and her sincere care for her students.
Carroll was a piano major, aspiring to be a concert pianist, when she came from Northern California to Southern California to attend Biola University on a scholarship. Realizing that music would always be a part of her life, it would not be the profession she aspired to.
She always loved her dental hygienist as a child and thought it would be a great fit for herself. She was accepted into the Cerritos College Dental Hygiene program in 1981. Soon after graduating from the program in 1983, she was invited by her former instructors to teach continuing education courses at UCLA. In 1987, she was also asked to teach dental hygiene part-time at Cerritos College. She was fascinated by these teaching experiences and decided to pursue a career in teaching dental hygiene. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from California State University, Long Beach while working full-time as a registered dental hygienist.
In 2002, Carroll became a full-time instructor at Cerritos College and this is where she feels she belongs.
The Dental Hygiene program is very rigorous, but Carroll believes learning can be fun. She uses an innovative teaching style and makes the sometimes dry, tedious memorizing process interesting by creating a “dental hygiene jeopardy,” a “feel-the-teeth-and tell-the-name” game and a “teeth puzzle” game. She is also the senior clinic director, which keeps her busy juggling clinical schedules the second year student visits to outside clinics all over Southern California. “It’s a lot of work, but worth the effort as our students see a multitude of patients with a variety of different conditions, enabling them to use all of their newly learned clinical skills,” said Carroll. “Our students are more than ready to embrace the real world when they graduate!”
She goes way above and beyond her teaching responsibilities and has designed and developed the Dental Hygiene program Web site. She takes pictures of her students and their activities and updates them on the Web site (she is also an amateur photographer), and always makes herself available for students – night, day and on the weekends. She has also created a job opportunities Web page so she can connect her students with prospective employers.
Since the Dental Hygiene curriculum is intensive and competitive, Carroll works very closely with her dental hygiene students. “I treat my students like peers and treat them with respect. “It’s a give and take situation, in which I can share my personal experiences as a dental hygienist and educator, but with such a diverse population, I learn a lot from my students as well,” said Carroll. She interacts with students with sincere care and passion. “Students can tell if you like what you do or not. It would be hard to fake it.”
Her commitment and involvement are so infectious that students naturally engage in community services. “I encourage them and give them advice, but I never tell them what to do,” she said. Students of the Student American Dental Hygiene Association (for which Carroll serves as co-advisor) find volunteer and fundraising activities such as walking for a cure, beach cleanup, donations for the homeless, orphanage visits and toy drive for the children’s center all on their own. Clearly her students are picking up good traits from their instructor.
One thing that sets her apart is that whenever she finds her students on campus, she greets them and asks how they are doing. “Our dental hygiene philosophy here at Cerritos is that we are a team. This team includes everyone from the students to our counselors, administration, support staff and faculty,” said Carroll. “We all work together for the success of everyone involved!”
Her love and passion for education is evident. Whenever she talks about her “kids” – as she refers to her students – she is nothing but smiles. “My students’ success is my success,” said Carroll firmly. Her passion and love for her “kids” epitomize the term “excellence” in teaching.