For Catherine Muller, dentistry runs in the family. Her father was a dental assistant, and her uncle, a dentist. She grew up in the exam rooms and witnessed the skill and finesse behind a simple cleaning, or creating unique prosthetics for a patient’s mouth. Dentistry came naturally, and it was a passion from the start.
“Dentistry always fascinated me,” Catherine said. She started trying to learn as much as she could as fast as she could. As a high school student, she enrolled in the ESBOCES Dental Chairside Assisting Program. After graduating, she went on to SUNY Farmingdale to pursue an associate degree in dental hygiene.
While in college, Catherine studied alongside her former ESBOCES teacher, Mary Armbruster. When they graduated, Mary approached Catherine to see if she was interested in assisting in the classroom. Catherine started her career in dentistry assisting patients, substituting classes for Mary, and teaching the Adult Education Dental Assisting classes at night. Mary tapped Catherine to be her replacement when she retired, starting a 19 year career teaching Chairside Dental Assisting for ESBOCES.
Catherine quickly became a powerful advocate for Career and Technical Education. “I tell my students, ‘you’re going to graduate high school with a diploma, so why not graduate with a trade skill as well?’” She now works as a work experience coordinator, expanding her reach outside of the classroom, and into student’s careers.
“I really like helping students take all they’ve learned and apply it in an internship,” Catherine said. “Even as a work experience coordinator, I’m still teaching students one-on-one, guiding them in creating resumes and preparing them for an internship or work interview.”
Catherine is not only building her career, she’s also building those of her students. Internships help students take what they’ve learned in the classroom, and turn it into valuable experience that can make them successful in their future. Last year, Catherine and her team placed about 100 students from the Eastern Long Island Academy of Applied Technology and 225 students from Islip Career Center in internships. She also presents interview workshops, and runs an annual contest called “Nail That Job” which invites 80 to 90 students to compete in mock interviews.
“When a student takes what they’ve learned in the classroom to an internship, it brings the lessons we teach to life,” Catherine said. “We hear stories every day of how successful our students become, it’s very rewarding.”