The Trailblazer in Education – Jaya Menezes

Jaya Menezes

Consistency, clarity of vision, commitment to goals and passion make powerful leaders. Meet with Mrs Jaya Menezes, who has decades of commendable leadership in education, leading larger teams, training professionals, mentoring teachers, motivating and supporting students through years to ensure greater success for everybody around her.

Her interview is shared with you in her own beautiful words as she speaks of her journey in a very inspiring way.

Mrs Jaya’s Passion, and Vision as a Leader in Education:

I am a passionate educator and a self-driven leader whose leadership philosophy is to drive the ethos of shared leadership by developing strong teams. I enjoy the challenges of education, working with teachers, students, and the opportunity to make education happen for each student. My passion lies in nurturing each child under my care to become life-long learners and in creating a positive, happy, and inclusive culture within the school community.

My highest priority is to help every child attain his or her potential and go beyond both academically and holistically as I strive towards contributing my bit in improving the quality of education and providing a safe and happy environment for students under my care. My skills and experience in educational leadership, teaching and learning, coaching and mentoring believe in fostering innovation and change to build a culture of continuous improvement and leading people through the change.

Jaya Menezes

My work experience spans a period of twenty-eight years in India, the Republic of Maldives, and the UAE. As an educator, my journey began in one of the leading ICSE school in India, where I worked for six years, thereafter, for a brief time in the Republic of Maldives as a GCSE English teacher, and finally in 2003 to UAE, where I have been privileged to work with several talented professionals for the last twenty years and more.

Her Purpose, Mission & Driving Force:

To lead people is to walk beside them, this is the philosophy that I have followed throughout my journey as an educator. There are three precious principles, which I hold on to always, the first is gentleness; the second is frugality; and the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others.

I was educated in a modern, small town in India, which excelled in education. It had broad-minded, visionary leaders who kept education as the topmost priority. With a strong foundation in education and being inspired by my parents who themselves were renowned educators, it was but natural for me to be drawn towards the career of

education. I joined the first school as a substitute teacher but continued to work there for six years. As time went by, I could not give up teaching as I derived a sense of satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment as my students went forward and on, successfully completing their school education.

My teaching years in the UAE, saw me grow in my profession as a compassionate and kind individual with strong value system, with a zeal for excellence and innovation. I am someone who relishes challenges and remains calm and composed when working under pressure. Personally, I am self-driven by the core values of integrity, morality, loyalty, and trust. Well versed in training, administration, academic planning, and operations of a successful school I am a proactive leader with strong work ethics.

My mission is to continue to maintain a vibrant, positive, and inclusive learning climate that is conducive for both student and staff optimum performance and achievement. I wish to keep sharing what I have learnt through my experiences and be the coach and mentor for more and more aspiring teachers and leaders. My aim is to continue to work with students, learn from the best there is in the field of education and most importantly associate with people who put children first.

Her major achievements as a professional:

As a professional, when I look back, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude to the Almighty and to my mentors who have guided me all through my career and to my lovely students who continuously inspired me to better myself each day. I feel blessed to realise that my unwavering resolve to help my students and the staff learn new things and better themselves has been motivating them to become positive contributors to the society.

As a teacher of Economics, Business Studies, Entrepreneurship, and English, at various schools, I was empowered to guide hundreds of students

towards their future goals. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see my students who are literally spread across the world, soaring high and contributing their best in building a better tomorrow for the next generations.

As I gradually moved up from being a novice teacher to being the Executive Principal, of a British curriculum school with more than five thousand students in the UAE, what guided me was a clear vision of excellence in all that I do and the wellbeing of students and staff. This vision coupled with strong strategic thinking, allowed me to build a focused direction, which was founded upon innovative practices. Furthermore, having a solution focused approach to meeting all school improvement needs, and ensuring all members of the community as part of the quality assurance process, enabled me to maintain high standards of education in the schools that I worked. My proven track record of continually improving school ratings, because of delivering the highest student outcomes, demonstrates my strong understanding of effectively implementing key leadership processes.

My educational philosophy is to build a community of practitioners who have excellent pedagogical practices to provide the best learning experiences for students under my care. I find myself fortunate as I have been able to train hundreds of teachers in effective teaching practices and the reward for this hard work is the improved teaching practices with positive outcomes for our students. This is what brings to me, a sense of accomplishment and excellence.

The Benefit Mindset is the ideology that I practice both in my personal and professional life and strongly believe in its principles of serving others with compassion and kindness. I take pride in being able to create an inclusive, positive school culture with a strong value system and in being able to build a learning community among our teachers who learn by sharing best practices. Upon reflection, I see myself as that educational leader who sees value not only in mentoring others, but also in being mentored, thereby creating an organic, reciprocal relationship that has a cascading beneficial impact on the teachers and students.

Her Take on Tech Impact on Education:

Technology is a ubiquitous part of the lives of our students. We have never been inundated with more information. Access to anything we have ever wanted to learn is a click away. Besides all other benefits, technology-enabled learning environment allow the learners to access and participate in

specialized communities of practice, graduating to more complex activities and deeper participation as they gain the experience needed to become experts.

The use of technology in education expands possibilities for growth for all groups of students and brings greater equity of access to high-quality learning materials, expertise, personalized learning, and tools for planning for future education. Technology can help learning move beyond the classroom and take advantage of learning opportunities available in museums, libraries, and other out-of-school settings. Students can experience the real-world learning through simulation.

This brings me to the concept of Experiential learning, which is the process of learning by doing. I strongly believe that by engaging students in hands-on experiences and reflection, they are able to connect theories and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations. Knowledge doesn’t automatically make us better. We get results, make progress and acquire skills through practice.

The integrated approach to learning helps students link their prior learning with new learning and experiences, across different learning areas and this makes learning more meaningful and practical. It enables children to draw meaningful connections across their learning experiences and between their learning and life experiences. It helps them understand how concepts and skills are linked and can be applied in different contexts.

Critical thinking is a vital skill in today’s fast-paced world. Critical thinking skills are important in every discipline, at and beyond school. As an Educational Leader, all through my career, I ensured to create opportunities for students to use skills of problem solving, analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. We create learning activities that are self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and help with self-corrective thinking. This encourages students to think out of the box and come up with solutions to various real-life problems.

Her message to our readers:

I would like to start by taking this opportunity to thank Mrs. Nousheen, for giving me, a teacher by profession, a voice, and a wide platform to share my endeavours, struggles, and accomplishments. I hope that by reading about my life experiences, some teacher reading this interview, will be inspired not to give up but continue to make a difference in the lives of students. This is also an opportunity for me to thank all my hundreds and thousands of students who inspired me to accomplish all that I have and nudged me to keep going.

As Educational leaders, it is our responsibility to leave the center stage for our students and for us to play the roles of ‘guide by the side and not the sage on the stage’. Educators can create opportunities for students to take responsibility of their learning by guiding them to achieve the goals so that all students can acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives. They should not ask ‘What?” but “why?” which will lead to creative thinking thus develop students into true global students of the 21st century.

I believe that educational leadership is about leading by example. It means learning by doing and not waiting for opportunities to arrive but going forward and creating a path for oneself. I would like to conclude by quoting my favourite lines of H.W. Longfellow, “Lives of great men all remind us. We can make our lives sublime. And, departing, leave behind us. Footprints on the sands of time.” I pray and hope that as I was inspired by my mentors and my teachers, I may also inspire many more talents to the world of education.