Smile! It increases your face value.
Jenny Zamora-Garcia’s email signature describes her life mission. So does her nickname around town—the Flagstaff Tooth Fairy. Zamora-Garcia, an alumna of NAU’s dental hygiene program and an adjunct family member in the Department of Dental Hygiene, talks about how she got into the field, where the nickname came from and how she felt being selected as one of Flagstaff’s Citizens of the Year for 2022.
Why did you get into dental hygiene?
When I meet someone, the first thing I take notice of is their smile. Their smile tells a lot about that person! When I was 14 years old, I knew I wanted to be in the dental field.
How did you get the nickname Flagstaff Tooth Fairy?
In 1992, I began my public health career as a dental hygienist for Coconino County. Part of my job responsibility was to provide oral health education in a school setting. During my presentations, I noticed that the children were not captivated in my presentation. Later that day, I gave it some thought and decided to dress as the tooth fairy. Being creative is not my forte, but I created games appropriate for the grade level. And giving out prizes captivated all children of all ages!
Depending on what children’s movie was playing, I would create my costumes. I was always the tooth fairy. When the Power Rangers were a big hit, I was the Power Tooth Fairy. With Toy Story, I dressed as Jessie the cowgirl. I was also Princess Leia, the molar marauder, the dazzling tooth fairy.
What is your favorite part of your work?
My favorite part is working with children to make dentistry fun for them. Many children go to their first dental visit with fear and phobia. Many of the dentists in Flagstaff would tell me that they could tell when I’d been in their classroom because the children were at ease and knew exactly what was going to take place while at their dental appointment.
My biggest gratification is putting a smile on children and adults because everyone deserves a smile! At that time was when I created my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. (Want to have the Flagstaff Tooth Fairy in your classroom? Shoot her an email!)
What brought you to NAU?
When I looked into dental hygiene school in the ‘80s, there were only two schools in Arizona—Phoenix College and NAU. I did get accepted to both hygiene programs. The only program that offered a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene was NAU. I chose NAU because my goal was to become an Air Force dentist, and you need your bachelor’s degree for entry into dental school or to receive the Air Force dental scholarship.
Tell me about a significant childhood memory, and how it has impacted your life today.
When I was a fifth-grader, my mom and I went shopping in Tucson in the heat of the summer. My mom noticed there was a mother with three children who did not have shoes walking barefoot on the hot cement. My mom immediately turned around, parked the car and bought shoes for the children. That was my first exposure to making a difference in someone’s life. I knew that I, too, wanted to be able to give back and make a difference!
When I graduated from the hygiene program, I was the first and only recipient of the Outstanding Community Service Award because I was always the hygiene student to volunteer for all events that included free services for the Flagstaff community.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An Air Force dentist. My dad was in the Air Force for 20 years, and he worked in intelligence. We traveled all over Europe and the USA. I wanted to travel the world as an Air Force dentist. Unfortunately, it did not happen because we did not have a dental school in Flagstaff, and I did not want to leave my husband for four years. When AT STILL Dental School opened, I thought seriously about attending the school, but I had two young children. My children did not want a split home, so I decided not to pursue dental school. Being with my family was more important to me.
What have you been most proud of recently?
First and foremost, how successful my two sons Aaron💙 and Jordan💓 are. I always told them to be humble and kind and make a difference. To this day, they have followed my teachings.
Personally, I’m proud of receiving the inaugural Northern Arizona Oral Health Hero Award and very honored for being chosen as the female citizen of the year!
What is your favorite way to spend a day off?
Spending time with my family means the most to me. We will either play golf, tennis, pickleball, spec tennis, or bowl or play games. Aaron and Jordan are my rock and inspiration. Aaron💙 lives in Oklahoma and Jordan💓 lives in New Jersey. I always get rejuvenated when they spend time with me and my husband, Frank.
What are three things on your bucket list?
- Achieve a master’s degree
- Vacation to Spain or Hawaii with my family
- Travel around the USA in an RV
What advice would you give your students?
Be humble and kind, make a difference every day and always come with an open mind and open heart! It’s the little things in life that we do for others that make the world go around. It not only puts a smile on their face but makes them feel loved and cared for.