Angela Odom worked as a dental assistant for an Aiken dentist for 14 years, but she knew she always wanted to follow her passion: education.

Today, she shares her knowledge and experience with students at Aiken Technical College, training them for careers as dental assistants.

“It was bittersweet to leave that position, but I knew as a child I always wanted to be a teacher,” said Odom, who is the expanded duty dental assisting program coordinator at ATC. “So, it's awesome to be able to now teach what I know.”

Odom is a dental assisting instructor, teaching her students about instruments and suctioning. The job, Odom pointed out, is not the same as a dental hygienist, who cleans teeth.

“The assistant is like a nurse to the dentist,” she said.

Odom said the best part of her job is watching her students grow into professionals.

“They come in knowing nothing. They're a blank slate,” said Odom, who will have 22 students this fall. “Then to see how much they've learned and how much they've grown, that does my heart good. I'm like that mama bird who sees her chick hatch and develop and then fly the coup. That makes me proud.”

“There's a high demand for the position now,” she continued. “My name is getting out. The doctors know my work, and they trust me.”

Raised since birth in Thankful Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Windsor, Odom sings in the choir, helps with the church's scholarship fund and is in the Willing Workers Club, which assists seniors. She also works with the youth group and Vacation Bible School.

Odom volunteers for free mobile dental clinics.

“Any dental mobile unit, free dentistry, I'm there,” she said. “They've given me so much. I'm glad to give back.”

Odom also is very active with Sisters Only, a nonprofit club sponsored by radio personality Cher Best of 96.3 KISS-FM in Augusta. She is a past secretary and a current membership co-coordinator.

The club sponsors the annual Promapalooza, giving high school girls everything they need for prom for free, and the SHERO Awards, recognizing women who make positive impacts on their communities.

The club also awards five $1,000 scholarships and will bring its Camp Be Your Best to the new Lessie B. Price Senior and Youth Center in Aiken this month. Price, an Aiken City Council member, is a former SHERO Award winner.

“That's my give back. Every month I'm involved with some program. It just fills my heart,” Odom said.

Odom graduated from South Aiken High in 1993. She studied dental assisting at ATC, received her bachelor's degree from Voorhees College in Denmark and her master's degree from Concordia University. She met her husband, Sam, at ATC. They have a son, Dallis, 9.

Odom also is a massage therapist, and massage, you might say, is her therapy.

“I'm always on call for something,” she said. “That's my out. I'm taking care of somebody in a totally different manner, but I'm also taking care of myself. My favorite slogan is 'Every body deserves a massage.'”

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.