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The student news site of Los Medanos College


The student news site of Los Medanos College


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From professional dancer to English professor

Jill Buettner’s found passion for teaching others
Los Medanos College English professor Jill Buettner dances to “Bluebird Variation” from “Sleeping Beauty.” Photo courtesy of Jill Buettner

Joy radiates off Jill Buettner’s face as she talks about finding a career that feels so rewarding. 

Buettner, who has been teaching at Los Medanos College for almost 10 years now, recounts how she knew LMC was the place she wanted to anchor down.  

“It’s an incredibly diverse student population. I liked that about the college,” she said.  

At the time, she was just starting her teaching career with previous experience working within the District and admits she didn’t know much about LMC at the time.  

Buettner describes the interview process and the mentors she met along the way and remembers having a “really good feeling.”  

Although she enrolled in classes at Fresno State University, becoming a professor was not her intention in the beginning. 

“I was a professional ballet dancer, and so I enrolled in college, and I was dancing professionally at the time,” she said.

Buettner started dancing at 6 years old and found a real passion for it, taking it more seriously as she entered high school. She participated in summer dance programs with the San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theater and Boston Ballet. 

Growing up in the Central Valley, she describes how ballet exposed her to the world by participating in programs in big cities.  

“Given that opportunity to live in those places was cool,” she said.  

After engaging in those programs and finding a love for dance, she knew it was something she wanted to pursue, but also planned to apply for college to have as a backup. 

“But I was auditioning for companies and I got a job with Fresno Ballet, which was a small regional company at the time, but then I got a scholarship to go to Fresno State,” she said. “I would do my classes during the day, so I kind of saw it as something I was doing in addition to my dance career.”

Buettner went on to dance with that company for two years but was thrown a curve ball when Fresno Ballet closed due to lack of funding. 

She described the moment as “devastating” after walking away from something she had put hours of training and dedication into. Since she was no longer under a dancing company, she no longer saw that career as an option. Buettner was halfway through her undergraduate studies by that point and chose to continue her educational path.  

She describes dance being a “young person’s thing” and is “not something you can do forever. But I knew I’d be able to teach English for a long time.”

After her dance, she focused on studying English and with the encouragement of her professors went on to graduate school at Sacramento State University.  

She describes her experience going on to graduate school as “transformative” and “important for my growth.” She later became a teaching assistant and collaborated with her peers about teaching.  

Buettner continues to grow as a professor and has become more laid back as the years have gone on.  

“I don’t stress about the small stuff anymore,” she said. “I think too just like the more students you meet, you just understand that everybody has a different path and a different way of meeting learning outcomes.”

One of her favorite courses to teach is Children’s Literature because of its joy and imaginative experience. 

Smiling as she reflects on a time she put her students into groups to do a presentation on a children’s book of their choosing. One group chose Peter Pan, with each member dressing up as a character from the story. 

She has also been able to take on other projects she’s passionate about outside of the classroom. She is co-running a professional development program called the Pedagogy Innovation Project and is the faculty lead at the Center for Academic Support. 

She tutors students herself and enjoys being there for the sole purpose of helping them. 

“I think the other work that I’ve done at the college has also enriched my teaching,” she said, and her experiences have painted “a bigger picture about what education can be.”  


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Ashley Reitz
Ashley Reitz, Staff Writer

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