“We just were resigned that it wasn’t going to happen for us. It was a sad time. It helped us grow as a couple,” Valadez recalls.
At the time, Valadez was not sure they would ever be able to start a family. That worry was lifted several years ago. She slides a photo across the table and beams, “That’s Ivan. He’s 3 and a half. That’s my son.”
After being blessed with a child, Valadez began a new path, the one that started years ago when she began volunteering in her mother’s classroom.
Southwest High School Principal Danette Morrell was looking for someone to begin the Southwest Academy for Careers in Health Sciences, a grant-funded partnership with Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program.
“Although we hired Valadez at a part-time level that first year, she’s always given it the dedication of a full-time job,” Morrell says. “She is a phenomenal educator.”
Valadez was given the challenging task of starting the program from scratch, with the dental assisting program as the cornerstone of Southwest’s curriculum of careers in health sciences.
“She found all sorts of resources on her own because it was the first course of its kind in the Valley. It’s a quality program because she’s able to not only have everything she needs to teach the course, but she also motivates students to find their place,” Morrell says.
Before classes began in 2008, Valadez and her family set to work on the classroom that had previously been used for storage. Valadez took the initiative to contact the Imperial County Public Health Department that had recently shut down its dental program and asked for a donation of the remaining equipment. A retiring dentist also donated his storage room full of supplies.
Valadez tapped her connections so the grant money for the program could be used for other things, as the classroom slowly became stocked through the goodwill of others.
“It goes to show what a small community is all about,” Valadez notes. “The dental community has been so supportive.”
Toward the end of her first year as a teacher, Valadez’s opportunity to step into a full-time teaching position was cemented.
“It’s so rewarding. I try to give (the students) my best,” Valadez admits.
From instructor to role model
At the time, a senior named Sophia Marroquin enrolled in Valadez’s course. Marroquin had little desire to finish school, and lacking the encouragement of her parents, she had resigned herself to possibly not graduating.
“I didn’t really like school. I felt it was pointless. It dawned on me that I was never going to amount to anything,” Marroquin, now 19, says.
After enrolling in Valadez’s dental assisting class, Marroquin tapped into a whole new side of herself.
Just a few months after starting the class, Valadez took a group of students to Ontario for the Health Occupations Students of America state leadership competition. Marroquin proved to be a fierce competitor in dental assisting. She took the gold medal, first place, at the state competition and advanced to take seventh place in the national competition in Florida. Marroquin’s interest in continuing her education flourished.
“Mrs. Valadez has impacted my life significantly. She gave me a lot of hope and pride in myself,” Marroquin, now a student at Imperial Valley College, says. “It was the best experience of my life.”
As the HOSA advisor, Valadez is taking 40 students to the state competition this year. Morrell emphasizes this is no small feat, as the students can be competing in many different areas.
In addition to HOSA, Valadez transformed her medical terminology class into a public service project. In order to give her students a connection to the words on the page, she requires them to create health education presentations. The students also volunteer for organizations like Between Women, a breast cancer organization, and at events like World AIDS Day.