Retiree Spotlight: Susan Bangasser

Dr. Susan Bangasser got her start teaching in an unusual place—underwater. Bangasser, who retired in 2017 from San Bernardino Valley College as Dean of Science, became interested in scuba diving while an undergraduate at Northwestern University. It was fun because "science people like exploring, and I liked looking at things and trying to understand them," she said.   

When Bangasser was a graduate student at the University of Illinois Medical Center conducting medical research, people were impressed by her presentations, and told her she should go into teaching. Bangasser decided to become a scuba instructor, and during those lessons picked up valuable tips that would help her down the road in a classroom.


"We had people teach us how to teach, which is really cool," she said. "Most college educators don't get that. They get their degree, then they're teaching. I was evaluated, critiqued, and when we did the water portion, I became able to handle people having problems." 

 
After moving to California, Bangasser applied for a job teaching chemistry part-time at SBVC, and found that she was well-prepared. "When you teach scuba, they have to know how to do it or they'll die, so it's serious, but they're paying you money and want it to be fun so you have to have fun," she said. "In my classroom, it's, 'you have to learn this, it's critical, but we're going to have fun along the way.'"  


When her children were young, Bangasser worked with elementary school kids, meeting before school to teach a Young Astronaut program. Once a week, they would do science projects, which were "fun and engaging, as well as informational," Bangasser said. It was preparation for what would come to SBVC several years later- the adoption of Urbita Elementary School by SBVC in December. The Adopt-a-School program is a partnership between the San Bernardino City Unified School District and the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce, and creates opportunities for student success.   


For at least a decade, students from Urbita have come to SBVC for planetarium shows and demonstrations and activities with faculty from the science department. Urbita teachers work with SBVC faculty, informing them of their curriculum so the SBVC professors can tie those concepts into their presentations. This not only helps reinforce what the students are already learning, but also gets the kids interested in possibly having a career one day in a STEM field.

   
"Faculty enjoy their discipline and the fact that they can share it with a younger generation, and they might become future biologists or earth scientists," Bangasser said. "Also, working with kids can be a lot of fun. It's like being the grandma- you're not there all the time, but there for the real fun events. It seems like our faculty enjoys working with the kids, and they are so well-behaved when they come here."