Getting to Know: Jackie Verduzco
When the pandemic forced education at all levels to move online, it posed a particular challenge for classes that have corresponding instructional labs. But at Porterville College, lab technician Jaqueline Verduzco Alanis sprang into action and devised creative solutions so students could still get the valuable, hands-on experience that is so critical to the sciences.
Verduzco has been the college’s lab technician since 2017. She’s responsible for the smooth running of the labs, ordering supplies, maintaining equipment and ensuring safety and proper handling methods so hundreds of students each year can complete science classes. The facilities consist of a prep lab and four lab rooms that serve classes like chemistry, biology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology. Students do everything from animal dissection to extracting DNA from split peas when they work in the lab.
“She does a lot of things and has to constantly switch gears,” said Buzz Piersol, a chemistry instructor at Porterville College. Piersol was Jackie’s instructor when she was a student at the college and the two have since become close friends, he said. As a student, he remembered she was very engaged, curious and interested in learning.
When COVID hit, Jackie had to get creative. In spring 2020, when classes suddenly shifted online, Jackie found some vendors who were selling at-home lab kits. But when demand for those surged and they became harder to get, Jackie began making the lab kits herself. She would pack up test tubes, glue sponges, DNA extraction kits and whatever else the lesson called for in assembly-line fashion. She assembled hundreds of kits and then passed them out to students in their cars so professors could walk the students through each kit via Zoom.
When in-person classes did resume in spring 2021, Jackie had to devise ways to ensure social distancing in the labs, where students typically are paired up and share supplies. She came up with ways for students to have individual stations and devised a color-coded system for morning and afternoon labs to minimize sharing of equipment and supplies.
Verduzco said she has always felt a strong connection to supporting students in her work.
“I do feel that I’m directly making an impact. A lot of our science students are future nurses and we feed directly into our nursing program,” Verduzco said. “If I’m not there, those labs don’t get done.”
Jackie used to be one of those students. Born in Mexico, Jackie moved to Porterville as a young child with her family. She graduated from Porterville High and then attended Porterville College, where she earned a degree in physical and biological science, before earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fresno State.
“I am a science-y person, and I always loved the labs,” she said.
Jackie lives in Porterville and is married. She has a 13-year-old step-daughter and this summer Jackie is due to give birth to a baby boy.
Her mother and five siblings all live in Porterville and Jackie said she enjoys spending free time with them, especially going on hikes and bike rides. She also loves to bake and is part of the book club at her local library.
She said one thing she loves most about her job is the closeness between her colleagues. That comradery is one of the things she missed most during the pandemic.
“Everyone was every welcoming from the beginning,” she said. “I feel very much like I'm part of the department.”
Favorite place to escape to: I love the beach, but a lot of times I get dragged down to Tijuana because my husband is a big soccer fan. He’s a Tijuana Xolos fan.
Favorite restaurant in Porterville: Vientiane Cuisine, a Thai-Laotian restaurant. I grew up in Porterville with a lot of Laotian friends and it reminds me of the food I would eat with them.
Best book you’ve read recently: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah