Kristina Perkins had never given much thought to a teaching career. She was working as a Medical Assistant for a family practice office when the opportunity to teach an evening medical class came her way.
“Teaching was never something I planned for, but I loved it,” says Mrs. Perkins. “It just felt like one of those meant-to-be’s.”
After her family’s move to Billings, Montana where there were no medical teaching jobs immediately available, she contented herself with successful work in an orthopedic surgeon’s office. But she felt something was missing. A return to California gave her the chance to reconnect with the career that is her heart’s desire.
Kristina went to work for a local career college and reveled in the return of her true profession. She spent almost five years trying to give her students the best chance at a successful career opportunity in an environment that did not give her the support she needed to help make that happen.
“They were more about numbers and just keeping students,” says Perkins. “I left there questioning whether or not I was done with teaching.”
A student called to tell Kristina how much she missed her, and Kristina ended up admitting that she may not teach anymore. The student surprised her with an emotional plea.
“She told me, ‘You have to teach; you were so important to me,’” says Kristina, who was moved by her declaration. “I knew I had to find a school that was more focused on student achievement.”
Kristina stumbled upon a part-time teaching position at SJVC’s Modesto campus. Within six months she was working full-time in the Clinical and Administrative Medical Assisting program and feeling right at home.
“Here it’s more student and faculty oriented,” she explains. “We do things throughout the year for students. Student Appreciation Day, all the student clubs; we give them a real college experience instead of that get-them-in-get-them-out sort of thing.”
“Kristina has tirelessly served the Modesto campus in many capacities: instructor, Assessment Coordinator and AMT Advisor,” says Alyssa Bahr Casillas, Dean of Student Services. “She and a hard-working group of students raised over $3,000 for the March of Dimes.”
The March of Dimes’ March for Babies Walk in 2013 was a huge success for the campus. Kristina Perkins led the SJVC team with just a handful of student organizers. Their previous year’s efforts had raised $1,400, but they were determined to hit a new high. It was during the kickoff meeting that things got exciting.
One school pledged to raise $3,000 for the Walk, so naturally SJVC’s team declared their goal of $3,001.
“We had dress-down days, bake sales and sold raffle tickets and t-shirts,” says Kristina. “Things snowballed and 50-60 students and their families participated in the Walk last April.”
SJVC raised $3,500. Even better, over a dozen students are already lined up and ready to dedicate themselves to this year’s effort for March of Dimes.
It takes a lot of talent and professionalism to teach a diverse group of students, some right out of high school and some struggling with information overload after a long absence from the classroom.
“I think every student is different, and one of my strengths is being able to identify with each one and see where they are coming from,” says Kristina. “It is challenging to balance what you are teaching to reach both those who can get if faster and those having a more difficult time.”
It all comes together for Kristina at graduation. It is not the grandeur of the event, the inspirational speakers or even the emotional walk across the stage that hits her hard. It is witnessing graduates’ total sense of achievement.
“For me, it’s being able to see what they’ve accomplished after their externship, the end result; that’s when it’s real,” says Kristina. “When they know they have succeeded and they are so proud of that moment.”
She gets to share in a little of their pride. “I want something for what I give; not even big, just little things,” says Kristina. “I want to see their confidence grow; to feel they know that they don’t have to have all the answers, but that they can go out in their field and be successful. It’s the little changes I see that keep me coming back.”
Little changes maybe, but with a large impact on many lives.
Kristina is continuing her own education and is scheduled to receive her Bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration early next year. Life is rewarding and feeling good for her, husband Jim, their daughter Breanna and their three dogs and two cats. As Kristina says, “It’s those little every day things that make such a difference and are so rewarding.”