By Claudia Zequeira
First impressions matter. Just ask April Montallana, administrative assistant, who provides support to the School of Allied Health’s Dental Hygiene program.
“I am the first person a patient sees when they come for their dental hygiene cleaning appointment,” she said. “My goal is to make sure that the patient is treated with kindness and respect and to answer questions or offer assistance before the patient is admitted into the clinic.”
In her role, and besides manning the front desk and helping schedule appointments for patients at the Dental Hygiene Clinic on West Campus, April also supports her dean and faculty members with administrative functions, including making purchases and managing the work study employees assigned to her area.
April also interacts frequently with the students pursuing dental hygiene and completing their clinicals at Valencia College. She is proud to be able to offer “positivity and encouragement” to the cohort of students admitted into the program yearly.
The program, she said, is rigorous, and many students complete it while supporting their families and juggling many responsibilities.
“During the course of the two-year program, I get to know these students very well and I am extremely proud to be able to witness each student’s journey from the beginning of the program to becoming a registered dental hygienist after graduation,” she said. “I am constantly inspired by our students.”
More recently, April has been helping organize a virtual pinning ceremony for dental hygiene students. The face-to-face ceremony, normally held in May, was canceled due to COVID-19.
She is also helping lead the social engagement initiatives of the School of Allied Health (SOAH) by managing its Yammer page; a kind of social media application that can be used at work where members share daily inspirations, motivation, announcements, and family and pet photos. The effort, she said, allows for her team to connect while social distancing.
April also hosts a monthly live Zoom fellowship event where her department celebrates the birthdays and achievements of its members. The event includes interactive Zoom games and puzzles as well as sending prizes to the winners. In addition, she sends recognition gifts for colleagues in the division who are retiring or accepting new positions within and outside of the college.
“Marie Vasquez-Brooks, dean of the School of Allied Health, lovingly calls me our ‘cruise director,’” said April. “I’m also called the SOAH ‘cheerleader’ by some of my colleagues – I am happy to serve as both.”
Marie, dean, School of Allied Health, confirmed April is indeed pivotal to her department.
“She has taken the lead on helping to continue developing our social environment in the School of Allied Health, and really I could not imagine anyone better suited,” said Marie. “April is skilled in managing her work, but that is only where the best part of her begins. She approaches her work every day with a positive attitude and servant spirit without ever seeming to let the work get to her. Her belief in the student’s value and abilities have made her the smiling face that everyone sought in the dental clinic when having a bad day. She has effortlessly translated that spirit to her digital personality. She is a critical part of our team and a reminder why we are a strong sum of each of our strong parts.”
Prior to her current position, April, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Rollins College, worked as a sales associate at the East Campus store and as a lab aide for the Business, Information Technology and Public Services department.
She loves working at Valencia (she recently celebrated her 10-year work anniversary) because she believes in its values as well as in the many professional development opportunities available. April said she recently completed a SEED 1 seminar — focused on creating equity at the College — and participated in a PJI retreat. But she is also here because of the people she’s met along the way.
April mentioned how a former supervisor brought food to her home after her husband was seriously injured, while another had his daughter bake her a birthday cake shortly after she started in her position.
“I’ve always worked with supervisors who supported me,” she said “I’ve always appreciated that.”
The College, she said, is also a leader in providing “an affordable quality education as well as prioritizing the safety, personal wellness and personal development of its employees.”
“I am inspired when I read about the actions and accomplishments of our colleagues and programs that serve and strengthen our community,” she said.
Outside of Valencia, April is a professional musician. She is the singer, songwriter and guitarist of an original hard rock band called Auditory Armory, which has toured the United States and plays locally. She also enjoys gardening, writing poetry, studying sociology and metaphysics, practicing Zumba and hiking with her husband and her cat.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.