Annmarie Principe is keenly aware that many of the students who take her Medical Assistant Classes at Florida Career College (FCC) are looking for another chance.
Some are striving to overcome challenges from their past, be it misfortunes, wrong turns, or costly mistakes that seemingly escalated beyond their control. Others have long underestimated themselves and have finally conjured up the strength to take another crack at improving their education and career possibilities.
Regardless of what brought them to her classes at FCC in West Palm Beach, Annmarie offers all her students the same advice.
“I always tell them the recipe for success is to never look back [and] the main ingredient is change,” she said. “And, for our students, change is the most difficult thing. What they need from [instructors] is consistency, approachability and connection. Then, we can turn many lives around.”
Such an approach has served her well over her 17 years as a medical assistant instructor, the last seven years at Florida Career College. Not only has it benefited hundreds of students who develop the confidence and skills needed to start a new career in healthcare, but more recently, it earned her recognition as 2021 Educator of the Year by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC).
Annmarie was officially awarded this honor during the annual FAPSC Conference on Friday, Aug. 6.
“To me, the first thing I said to Gregg Crowe is, ‘Oh my God, I’m so humbly appreciative!’” she said. “Humbleness is what I do. It’s part of my every day. I didn’t expect[the award, and it’s breathtaking to get something like this and not expect it.”
FAPSC Educator of the Year
FCC is a member of FAPSC, which serves as an advocate for high-quality career schools and colleges in the state. Established in 1956, FAPSC recognizes excellence in the educational sector with awards during its annual conference.
The FAPSC awards committee chose Annmarie as its Educator of the Year based on her exceptional commitment to mentoring and teaching excellence, dedication to scholarship and self-development, and outstanding service to the FCC institution and community.
“I nominated Annmarie because she is a tireless advocate for our students’ success,” said Campus Executive Director Gregg Crowe. “She brings a passion for her work each and every day. During the pandemic, when students were facing challenges unprecedented in our lifetime, she was a stabilizing force who provided a much-needed sense of normalcy and continuity to their lives.”
Annmarie said her secret to accomplishing this is simple: consistency.
“I truly believe that consistency on our part – consistency in what we say and what we do and expect, and constantly giving them affirmation – is key to giving students a better tomorrow,” she said. “As a teacher, I’m your start, not your finish. My biggest reward is when they make it – when they’re comfortable and confident and on track toward changing their lives.”
Following a Lifelong Passion
Annmarie said she’s always had a passion for teaching. As a child, she liked standing in front of a chalkboard pretending to present classroom lessons.
As she grew up, however, her father’s battle with an illness turned her attention and interests toward the medical field. Her first position in healthcare was as a medical assistant, but as her career progressed, she worked multiple roles in EMT, cardiovascular, respiratory therapy, and administration.
“After several years working in the hospital, I developed a hankering for teaching again,” Annmarie said. “Teaching CPR to laypeople also exposed me to that element, and I just decided to take [my career] to that level – to bring not only my knowledge, but my life to the students in front of me.”
Teaching brought Annmarie from New Jersey to Florida, where she eventually started working nights at FCC. She’s been with the school during the last seven years.
Despite this experience, however, Annmarie still considers herself a work in progress.
“I’m still learning from my students,” she said. “That’s how I get better over the years. They’re my gauge on how I’m doing and how I need to change.”
One thing she will never change, though, is her focus on the individual student. While anyone can engage a classroom, Annmarie believes that being able to engage with students on an individual level is critical in helping them stay motivated and excel within the Medical Assistant Technician program.
“The [individual] connection is very different,” she said. “But, they trust me. I can use the book and teach them theory inside out and around the block, but they need to feel good about themselves. That’s the piece I try to build in the beginning. And once they get there, that’s the reward – that, and knowing they’re finally on the road to being hired.”
If you’re interested in becoming a medical assistant, learn how to become a medical assistant!