Saddleback Nursing Professor Finds Inspiration Through Teaching Feature Story

September 22, 2022
Saddleback Nursing Instructor Grace Chau

Like many career education students, Grace Chau was in search of a second career when she started attending Saddleback College. After teaching elementary school for 3 years, Chau knew she loved teaching but felt like something was missing. A passionate volunteer, Chau’s interest in helping people and her love of science motivated her to pursue nursing school. Little did she know that learning how to be a nurse would inspire Chau to want to be a teacher again.

“I was inspired to teach by the best faculty I had ever met,” explains Chau, who already had a bachelor’s degree. “My professors at Saddleback College were kind, caring, and always accessible to me.”

Chau’s first educational journey started at Pasadena City College. After transferring to UC San Diego and completing her bachelor’s degree in Human Development, Chau moved on to Azusa Pacific University where she finished her master’s as a Family Nurse Practitioner with a minor in nursing education. Despite all of this education, it wasn’t until Saddleback College that she learned what it meant to be a teacher.

“I was impressed with how much they cared about my academic progress and my development in character,” Chau says. “I wanted to give that care to the community around me.”

In 2019, Chau joined Saddleback College as an associate professor in the nursing department, where she teaches medical-surgical nursing courses. When her students are in need of inspiration, she reminds them of Saddleback’s slogan, “Welcome to Opportunity,” which is a call-to-action to choose their paths to a rewarding and successful career.

“Community colleges have a legacy of creating life opportunities for every student,” says Chau, whose own journey stands as proof of her claim.

Like all community colleges, Saddleback is home to many students who are looking to change careers or trying to advance in their current positions. Because Chau has “been there,” she understands the challenges and obstacles many of her students’ face. While at Saddleback, Chau worked two jobs and relied on a Saddleback College Foundation scholarship to support herself.

“I am proof that when you give students a chance, you provide an opportunity for them to be successful,” Chau says. “This two-year school gave me more than I could have ever imagined I would find. More than what I found at a four-year school more than once.”

Chau believes caring mentors are the key to a supportive learning environment. When she worked in a hospital, she assisted nursing graduates who were completing clinical hours and became a part of the hospital’s “go-to-staff” for extra support. Chau’s background in elementary education has helped her patiently mentor students as they solve problems, and she’s seen the same level of care for students from the dedicated faculty and staff at Saddleback. 

Saddleback’s Associate Degree in Nursing Program has an outstanding reputation in the healthcare community and boasts an NCLEX pass rate of over 95%. The program offers hands-on instruction designed by working nurses so students can learn the in-demand skills they will need to succeed in the real world. Every classroom is a supportive learning environment where students can overcome challenges and pursue their educational goals. Additionally, Saddleback offers a wide variety of wraparound support services like childcare, counseling, financial aid, tutoring, and other student-focused programs to make sure students succeed.

For Chau, the most fulfilling part about being an educator is learning along with her students. She wants students interested in nursing to know that the profession is about progress and not perfection, a lesson she learned from the pandemic.

According to Chau, COVID-19 had devastating effects on the healthcare sector, but it also sparked many positive developments for the college’s nursing department, including a department-wide simulation goal for 2023.

“Simulation environments help students practice their low volume, or high-risk skills, in a low stakes environment, before meeting a real-life patient in that scenario,” Chau explains.

In pursuit of this goal, the department was awarded a simulation grant to provide faculty with a standardized method to deliver, evaluate, and debrief students to make simulation training as comfortable as possible.

“The best nurses, and human beings, are people who are not just resilient but empathetic to the challenges others experience,” Chau says. “We do not want to grow a nurse,” Chau says. “We want to grow a professional with character and integrity.”

Chau wants students who enroll in Saddleback’s nursing program to know that while this program will be challenging, Saddleback’s caring faculty and staff will give them everything they need to succeed.

“Be prepared to work harder than you ever have, but also be prepared to be cared for and loved more than you ever have as a student, too,” Chau says.

To learn more about Saddleback College’s nursing program, please visit