Before I put this story into 5th gear, I want to drive this baby in reverse for a while and talk to you about the "SPONGE", the third element you should foster to becoming and staying INIMITABLE.

In 2010, when I began teaching Nurse Aide training, I had a VISION. My vision was to attain a 100% FIRST-TIME PASS RATE for all training cycles. I knew what I wanted to achieve right off the bat, but I didn't know HOW I was going to accomplish this. You see, during this time, I was the Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON) for a local Nursing & Rehab facility here in San Antonio, Texas. I built our Nurse Aide Training & Competency Evaluation Program (NATCEP) from the ground up. I didn't have a network. I did not know any other nurse aide Instructors. I was alone. Although this would be my first time in the arena as an Instructor, I had many years of background training experience in the military training soldiers. But...this...this was a different ball game all together. I had to prepare myself for training civilians...civilians with no health care background. I would have to tuck away my drill sergeant boots, and march to a different tune.

Because I already had a vision, it was quite simple for me to craft a Vision Statement: "By the year 2010, MCGC will be the only NATCEP to have graduated nurse aide students who achieved a first-time pass rate on their State's Nurse Aide Certification Exam, six (6) training cycles consecutively." And, to champion my military background, my Mission Statement, plain and simple: "Our students' performance is a reflection of our Instructors' training, teaching, instruction, and leadership.". Now, I had to back it up! But, again, I was stumped with, "HOW?".

I grabbed my SPONGE and I began researching online proven teaching and learning strategies. I began to reach out and network with other local teachers, trainers, and instructors through Facebook. I read pamphlet after pamphlet, and case study after case study, until I developed a plan to back up both my vision and mission statements. I'm not going to lie, I was scared. The first day of our brand new training program was approaching. Then, next thing you was here!

About two weeks prior to the start date of our first class, I squeezed my SPONGE over my head until it was bone dry. I drained all the information I had collected through my research, and allowed my brain to soak it all in.

Our first training cycle was a SUCCESS🙌. ALL students successfully completed the training program, and ALL students received a FIRST-TIME PASS on their Certification Exam--12 new Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs). OMG! I was such a PROUD PUPPY!!! All in part to integrating academic learning strategies I researched online.

But, there was still something missing. In order for me to figure out what was missing, I needed input from people who would know STUDENTS. So, I ran to my desk, opened the drawer, and took out my SPONGE--YES! I kept my sponge in my desk drawer! I went to the sink to soak it with water. I waved it in the air and asked, "Who wants to emerge me with knowledge, first?" Step right up. I'm ready to be Baptized with INSIGHT and UNDERSTANDING. Yeah! My students thought I was a little coo-coo, but that was a-okay with me. As my students walked up to me, I handed them my SPONGE, and told them to drench me with information on how I can become a better instructor; how I could help the next training cycle learn better; and, ideas I could incorporate in the training. If you can only imagine, I was drenched with water from head to toe, but...I was full of fresh knowledge.

I then began collaborating with other instructors, trainers, and academic teachers in my small network. I nibbled on every piece of bait they threw my way. Although, I no longer keep a sponge in my desk drawer, I still go fishing every single day.

The point I'm trying to get across to you, is that it is okay to INHERIT ideas from others. It's okay to receive advice from others. It's okay not to know everything. It's okay to try something different. Fifty percent (50%) of what I do in my classroom, is from concepts I developed on my own; 25% is from what I INHERITED from other instructors, teachers, and trainers; and, another 25% is from the knowledge I gathered from my students.

I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. Give me a 💔 or two to let me know you're enjoying the read. Stay tuned for Part 5 of "THE BOUGIE INSTRUCTOR", where I will continue to share with you the steps on becoming and staying INIMITABLE.

Julie Ann Reynolds, LVN, C-NM, QCP

Read next: The Unconventional College Life

Julie Ann Reynolds consistently achieves a first-time nurse aide State Certification student pass rate of 100%. Her leverage--PASSION. She hosts a thriving YouTube channel,

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