Dental Assisting instructor starts first-year students with heavy dose of hands-on learning

Posted: November 20, 2017

Dental Assisting instructor Shawn Adams has wanted to be a dental assistant since she was five years old.

Puyallup native Shawn Adams had taught dental assisting at Bates since 2015. She began her career in dentistry in 1992 as a sterilization dental assistant for Dr. Thomas Rhodes in Puyallup.

After earning her associate degree from Pierce College, she enrolled in Clover Park Technical College’s dental assistant program, while continuing to work with Dr. Rhodes until 2008.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Southern Illinois University in 2014. Shawn currently lives in Auburn with her husband, Ron, and six-year-old son, Declan.

Q1: Why did you choose to enter the field of dental assisting?

I wanted to be a dental assistant since I was five years old. All the women in my family were stay-at-home moms, but we had a family friend who was a dental assistant and we were patients at the office where she worked, so seeing her doing that job made me want to do it, too.

Q2: What is unique about your teaching style?

I don’t know if it is unique, but I am a very visual/hands-on learner, so I teach with a lot of pictures, models of teeth, as many hands-on objects as possible to pass around the room, including real teeth, dentures, instruments, etc.

Q3: What is your favorite aspect of dental assisting to teach, and why?

I teach students who are just beginning the program, so I love watching them go from knowing no more than the average dental patient knows to using dental terminology and getting really excited to start the hands-on learning portion.

Q4: What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?

Having the students come to me after spending time in their internship offices or at their new jobs and tell me “Thank you” for pushing them. I have had students tell me that they had no idea that their brains could hold that much information!

Q5: What is the best advice you have received?

The best advice I ever received was from my microbiology instructor, who said, “You don’t need to remember every detail about everything you ever learned—but you do need to know how to find it again.”

To learn more about the Dental Assisting program, attend an Information Session at the Downtown Campus the first and third Thursday at 2 p.m., or visit