From Student to Instructor: Montgomery Finds a Career That Meets Her Needs

Siau Yean Montgomery, dental assisting adjunct instructor
Siau Yean Montgomery, dental assisting instructor

Stepping onto the snowy tarmac of Bemidji Regional Airport on a brisk January day, Siau Yean Montgomery ‘13 began her journey as a college student in the United States. Hailing all the way from Malaysia, Montgomery recalls her surprise by the near sub-zero weather and towering pines that Bemidji had to offer.

“I remember standing close to my friend in the cold,” Montgomery said. “I think it was not only the shock of the weather, but it was also the beginning of something new for me.”

Montgomery started her college career studying psychology at a university in her home country but later enrolled at Bemidji State University. Throughout her time at Bemidji State, Montgomery split most of her time working various jobs in the community, finishing her degree and taking care of her family. After graduating in 2007, Montgomery found it difficult to find a job suited to her needs.

“Psychology is a highly demanding field, and some are capable of adjusting to it,” she said. “But in my circumstances, I wanted to be able to care for my family and also provide for them financially.”

So she decided to try something different and began her search for a new career. But she didn’t need to look very far.

“I often saw NTC when I dropped off my son at his bus stop,” she said. “Seeing it so often made me want to look into what type of programs they offer and that’s how I came across dental assisting.”

For Montgomery, NTC’s dental assisting program prepared her for the stability and flexibility she always wanted in a career. In addition to a flexible program, she found a sense of community with her classmates and instructors.

“I felt encouraged socially and academically and that motivated me to complete my associate’s degree,” she said. “Those connections really helped me begin my career and I’m forever grateful for that.”

After graduating in 2013, Montgomery began her internship at Northern Dental Access Center in Bemidji and went on to complete another internship at Cass Lake Indian Health Services. As she began building the foundation of her career, Montgomery was grateful for the connections she made at NTC.

“Terri Bannor, my dental assisting instructor, was a great source of support during my time at the college,” Montgomery said. “In fact, she even told me about an opening at Great River Dentistry in Bemidji, where I started working after earning my degree.”

Montgomery is still working as a dental assistant at Great River Dentistry, but when she was asked to mentor future dental assistants at NTC she began exploring another field of interest – teaching. She is now an instructor in NTC’s dental assisting program.

“It’s surreal to know that I am the one preparing them for their future career,” she said. “It’s showed me how far I’ve come and it’s a really rewarding feeling.”

As a faculty member, Montgomery has become increasingly involved with teaching and finds a sense of pride in what she does.

“The greatest satisfaction I’ve felt is being able to see my students understand the content I am teaching,” she said. “It’s rewarding to know that what I am teaching is going to prepare them for what’s outside the classroom.”

NTC gave Montgomery the necessary tools she would need for her future. Now she hopes to provide the same for her students.