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Samantha Overton sits at a table in a study room with a student studying

Accounting Faculty Instilling Self-belief & Love for Numbers

Pima graduate and instructor, Samantha Overton, strives to provide empathy, encouragement and inspiration to her students

By Anne Denogean, External Relations

Samantha Overton wasn’t lacking in smarts when she enrolled at Pima Community College in 2008, but she certainly was lacking in confidence.

“I didn’t believe in myself. I truly thought I was going to fail,” she candidly admitted.

Samantha graduated from Pima in 2012 with an associate degree in business and an honor’s certificate, went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, passed the CPA exam, and is now a Pima accounting instructor. Her journey was a remarkable one, filled with challenges and triumphs that have shaped her into the inspiring graduate and faculty member that she is today. 

Samantha grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and traveled a lot in her early adulthood with her then-husband, a sailor. She worked in various industries, including as a hairstylist. She moved to Tucson in 2005 after her divorce. 

Eventually, she met a new partner. They had a son, who would become her impetus for pursuing higher education. She recalled gazing down at her three-month old son and becoming inspired to return to school.

“I was just kind of looking at him and thinking, I really want him to grow up believing that you can do whatever you want to do. And I had always wanted to be in accounting. So, I thought, well, I'm going to go for it. I'm going to go back to school and try,” she said. "There was no way I could afford the university, but I knew that financial aid could cover the tuition at Pima."

Samantha Overton Headshot
Samantha Overton
Photo By Bryce Morthland, External Relations

As Samantha started classes in Pima in 2008, she struggled with then-undiagnosed learning disorders – including a reading disability and dyscalculia (which affects the brain’s ability to do math). She hadn’t enjoyed high school, where she felt “stupid and incapable.” 

“I didn’t realize I had disabilities. I just thought I was dumb,” Samantha said.

But her determination would help her overcome these barriers. She developed tricks and coping mechanisms for dealing with numbers and mathematics. She sought help from Access and Disability Resources. And she drew strength from the unwavering support of various faculty members, including Renee Richard, Ed Gallagher, Doloros Durán Cerda (now acting chancellor of Pima) and Kenneth Vorndran. 

Durán Cerda and Vorndran coordinated the honors program at the time and invited Samantha to join, encouraging her to get involved in college activities. Samantha said,” “Vorndran just believed in me. I had never really had that before from someone, especially somebody who didn't know me at all. He just was like, 'I know you can do this.'"

Richard and Gallagher mentored Samantha as she tutored other students and went through a supplemental instructor program. They taught her how to teach.

“I say all the time that if it hadn't been for my time at Pima, I would not have anything that I have today,” she said. “I learned how to believe in myself.”

"I say all the time that if it hadn't been for my time at Pima, I would not have anything that I have today...I learned how to believe in myself".~ Samantha Overton

When Samantha graduated from Pima, she had more than a degree. She had “a newfound confidence.”
Samantha earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona in 2014. During this time, she also discovered she had dyscalculia, which had affected her confidence in mathematics throughout her life. She had always worked around it, even while not knowing she had it.

“It was such a relief to understand why I never quite got it the way everybody else did,” Samantha said.
She passed the Certified Public Accountant exam in 2016 and completed her master’s degree from Rider University in 2019. She had been an embedded tutor in Pima accounting classes, then was hired as a full-time provisional faculty member and discipline coordinator before becoming a full-time permanent accounting faculty member this fall. 

Samantha’s teaching philosophy incorporates not only academics but also personal growth and self-belief. She shares her journey with students on the first day of class, letting them know that they can overcome their hurdles with determination. She strives to build a strong rapport with her students, urging them to share their dreams and aspirations.

As for her future, Samantha said she has found her calling.

“This is what I want to do. I want to teach. I want to be there for the students, and I want to put all my time into that.  That is where I see myself – in the classroom,” Samantha said.

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