The main purpose of schools and colleges is to make every attempt to bring out the best in their students. Guidance and counselling play an important part in that. Good conduct is coveted, but sometimes young minds need guidance to polish their personalities. School counselors prove a critical point of contact for students, families, teachers, and administrators within each school setting.
Becoming a school counselor is an excellent opportunity to make a tremendous positive impact on the lives of individual students and the school community. They help the citizens of the future overcome challenges, set goals, improve social skills, and help parents and educators understand and meet the unique needs of their student clients.
Watching students succeed is sure to make for a rewarding career. Jaime LaDawn Roya of the GEMS American Academy Qatar works as the Upper School Professional School Counselor since more than four years now, and she utterly relishes every day of it. Elaborating on how this job has allowed her to help students and watch them do better in school and in their social interactions has been gratifying to the core, Jaime gracefully granted us the opportunity to conduct an interview for us to gain some insight into her life.
So, without further ado, let us dive right into the interview and relish the wisdom we are about to receive.
Please introduce yourself to our readers and your professional journey so far.
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas USA where I worked for Houston independent school district for nine years in roles such as high school English teacher, graduation coach, and new teacher professional development coordinator before transitioning to middle school counseling. I earned my B.A. in psychology with a minor in British Literature from the University of North Texas, USA, and my MEd in Counselor Education with a licensed professional counselor endorsement from Houston Baptist University, USA.
I started at GEMS American Academy Qatar in 2017 serving as a comprehensive school counselor for various grades throughout lower and upper schools. While in the Middle East, I have gone above and beyond to build a reliable professional network that ranges from colleagues at neighboring schools, university representatives, and allies of the counselling profession. In 2019, I attended the ‘International School Counsellor Association’ conference, American School of Doha’s first annual counsellor symposium and monthly Doha professional resource group meetings. Additionally, I was selected by Branta, in partnership with the ‘college and beyond’ program, to participate in a 10-day university tour along the east coast and mid-west of the United States. Particularly, this experience led to networking opportunities that translated to university fairs which I have hosted at GEMS American Academy during the 2019-2020 to present day.
In the past three years, I have been working exclusively with grades 6-12 as the sole upper school counselor for around 495 students. My niche is helping students recognize their untapped potential and unlock the possibilities of their post-secondary goals.
What inspired you to step into the Education Industry?
I switched to the academic sector after starting in social work following my undergraduate degree. During my tenure serving clients under state care and supervision, I learned about my clients’ journey through life and noticed a common thread of their troubles starting in or around adolescence. As a result, I chose to pursue a career using my psychology background paired with the desire to help adolescent students chose alternative paths that would allow them to experience more success than failure. My goal is to leave every student better than I met them while insisting that they navigate their days with intentionality and purpose.
Who was your role model growing up? What was the greatest thing that you learned?
Growing up, my role models were the older women in my family. Their resilience, strength and astuteness are admirable traits that were passed down to me. For example, the greatest thing I learned from my late grandmother was the importance of giving others grace and space to change for the better. I believe we are all a constant work-in-progress with the ability to grow towards a positive trajectory.
Tell us about your institute/your association with the institute.
GEMS American Academy Qatar is an institution that provides a rigorous American-partnered education to an extremely diverse student population coming from over 75 different nationalities. I serve as a comprehensive School Counsellor providing individual and group services in the following domains: academic, career, personal/social and global perspective. I have developed the current counselling department from ground zero. I have supported our two classes of seniors with 100% on-time graduation and 95% university acceptances under our NEASC-accredited graduation requirements.
Kindly share your views regarding interactive, online educational content and how it is gradually becoming the need of the hour.
Our upper school has been a ‘bring your own device (BYOD)’ program since 2018. I have watched our students grow exponentially in their ability to not only navigate various existing technological platforms but also produce their own presentations and showcase high-level skillsets needed to develop unique applications for our student body and staff. In light of Covid-19, we see that technology is one constant source of connection for teachers, students and families. I believe it is important for people across generations to be open to the growing use of technology. Technology is not going anywhere, and I foresee it becoming a non-negotiable necessity in all sectors.
Education is considered as a tool of empowerment. What efforts do you and the institute take to make sure that education is provided to those who need it?
As the School Counselor I make sure every student has access to high-quality instruction and is provided an inclusive, well-rounded educational experience. I advocate for all students to ensure those with exceptionalities receive the tools they need to be successful. My genuine approach has afforded me the opportunity to reach those students most educators deem as “difficult to handle” or “too far gone”. I am a firm believer that people change daily and the sooner we allow our students to understand this concept, the sooner we will see their ability to exhibit a growth mindset and move towards a positive trajectory.
What is the one thing that you would like to change in the country’s education system?
One thing I would change in the country’s education system is access to professional development and resources for educators that may be entering the international sector with little-to-no experience. If there were more opportunities to learn about the cultural aspect of education, then I feel more educators would feel confident and better equipped to serve their diverse population of students.
What advice can you give to those who want to step into the field of education?
My advice for anyone who plans to enter education is to check their biases at the door and give their students an opportunity to grow at their own pace. When we allow students this opportunity, they will often exceed our expectations while nurturing their independent thinking skills. Additionally, this profession requires a transparent heart so that your students know, without a shadow of doubt, that you see them, hear them and will always keep their best interests at the forefront of education.
Please share what lies ahead for you and the institute for the near future.
The opportunity and autonomy I have at GEMS American Academy-Qatar has been an eye-opening and a life-changing experience. I desire to continue my career abroad. In fact, I feel my work in Qatar is just getting started. Additionally, I plan to pursue the 3000 clock-hours internship for my Professional Counsellor licensure in Texas during extended holidays and summer breaks. Completion of this will place me closer to my dream of opening a private practice and community outreach center once I permanently return to the United States.