As a program director at American Career College, Janice Lwin has learned that helping students reach their dreams often means helping them not give up on their dreams.
“Many of our students have not had a good support system to help them through challenging times and no one has pushed them. It’s very rewarding to see some of these students who start off struggling and doubting themselves finish the program and become physical therapist assistants,” Lwin said.
Besides her “amazing” faculty in the physical therapist assistant program, Lwin said the guidance students get from the other departments at ACC-Orange County – like Career Services, Student Services or the library — help keep future healthcare workers from all programs on the right track.
“I’ve never worked with such a great group. And the teamwork has been phenomenal among all departments at ACC, the leadership of (ACC-OC executive directory) Debbie Jones has created a fabulous team that contributes to our success,” she said.
When Lwin isn’t teaching or winning national educator awards, she enjoys “doing anything with my kids,” surfing, hiking, biking, snowboarding, cooking, and “hanging with friends.”
While the coronavirus pandemic shut down all campus activity for months, Lwin said the PTA team had to make fewer changes than some other programs.
“Luckily, our program was already blended so we had the advantage of having most of the curriculum online already. But we had to adapt some of our lab courses online, which was challenging. However, I think our program did a good job of still having the students learn hands-on skills from home."
And while some PTA students have returned to campus for hands-on lab training, Lwin said, many of the more experienced students have started visiting clinical sites in the field.
“We’re just enjoying being on campus and learning in a real environment,” she said. “Our senior cohort is out on internships and we’ve heard great stories of their experiences out in the ‘real world!’”
As far as being a PTA program director at ACC, without question, my favorite moment was the pinning ceremony for Cohort 4 — my first graduating cohort — and when I received word that 94% of them passed the Board exam on their first try after they graduated! This was a huge accomplishment and still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it! Cohort 4 was the group that started with me and I had the most impact on their education so I’m incredibly proud of them! At their pinning ceremony, it was a nice, intimate setting where the students’ friends and families came to share their support and I got to meet them all too. It was a wonderful end to their time in the program.
I try to use a mixture of styles. I don’t stand behind a podium. I walk around and often have the students get up and try different actions on themselves so they are interacting and using their body as a “cheat sheet” to learn. I incorporate active questions and answers, mobile apps, and other tools to keep the students engaged. I also use clinical examples and always try to give relevance to why we learn what we learn so they understand the importance of certain concepts. I also believe instructors need to understand that students learn in different ways and educators need to adapt their teaching styles.
It’s an amazing, rewarding field but it is very challenging. I recommend researching the field you are interested in pursuing, volunteering in the setting to get an idea of what the profession will look like, and being committed to the career you’ve chosen. On orientation day I have my students fill out a “why” card and write down their deepest-rooted reasons for why they are pursuing this career. It has to be a strong conviction as to why they want it because when the program gets challenging, they need to refer to what they wrote on the card to keep them going. Instructors and classmates can offer support during the program, but in the end, the motivation to endure the tough times and reach their dreams has to come from within themselves.
ACC cannot guarantee employment. Programs vary by campus. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.
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