Ijanaya Jacob-Brown is not only finishing her school year and two-year contract at Khartoum International Community School, Sudan (KICS), but she is also organizing paperwork required for a Belgian visa while remotely moving her personal belongings from Sudan to Trinidad. Only an extraordinary mix of time management, patience, and resilience can take care of these complications during the current COVID-19 situation. Ijanaya has just that!
Despite the challenges of the pandemic and quarantine, Ijanaya has felt buttressed by administrative teams at two international schools. Her trip home was covered by her current school, KICS, which relieved some financial stress, and she has received clear and affirming communications from her prospective school, Antwerp International School (AIS). For now, she is grateful to be safe at home in Trinidad, after a trying journey getting there. Ijanaya, who has been teaching her students at KICS virtually, says,
My challenges have not been using technology, but rather coming up with a schedule that works when I am living in a time zone six hours behind my school.
Ijanaya.wakes up around 6 a.m. and jumps right into work. The time difference necessitates that she respond first thing to emails from parents and teachers. Breakfast happens at the computer, but Ijanaya takes a real break at midday, and her workday ends at 7 p.m. “Online teaching is definitely a challenge,” she says.
An international educator for nine years, Ijanaya spent seven at the International School of Port of Spain (ISPS) before these last two at KICS. She has been a community member of ISPS since her mother began teaching there 26 years ago. As a child, Ijanaya developed an insatiable appetite for learning about different cultures and experiences from stories her mother read to her of Greek mythological creatures and Japanese folklore with haunted flutes and little girls with magical powers. Though she struggled academically, she excelled in English language and literature, which fed her imagination, gave her hope, and the feeling that she could succeed in the world. Working in a library is a natural fit for her.
Before her own career in international education, Ijanaya was a flight attendant for two airlines, a technical fashion designer, and an art director, wardrobe coordinator, and production assistant on local television shows as well as for the internationally acclaimed movie, Hero. She explains how her current work is the perfect match for her interests and skills:
Working as a teacher librarian has given me the opportunity to design three libraries—including a prison library. . . .I love to use my organizational skills, design experience from my first degree in fashion, and my love of reading to transform the traditional library into a vibrant, empowering, and inviting place where all students feel excited about learning, reading, and exploring the world around them. . . I design libraries that reflect cultural diversity.
Ijanaya registered with Search Associates (SEARCH) on the recommendation of a colleague. Finding our website “useful and user-friendly,” she relied on the features “My Job Search” and “My Profile” on the dashboard to navigate school vacancies and update her profile. To keep track of the jobs for which she applied, Ijanaya created a chart with the school’s name, location, benefits provided, salary, taxes, potential savings and the date her application was sent. For schools showing interest in her, she created another spreadsheet with the principals’ names, mission, and vision, and whether the school would be attending the London January Fair. She says that her Associate Gez Hayden gave her “invaluable advice and feedback” and guidance as he “fielded hundreds of [her] questions.”
Ijanaya landed her appointment at AIS at the 2019 London January Fair, which she found to be well-organized and easy to navigate, albeit hectic at times. She adds,
I enjoyed and learned a lot from the workshops, especially the workshop on interview tips. I also really enjoyed attending the school talks, enabling me to learn more about the schools I was interested in.
Before accepting the offer from AIS, Ijanaya researched extensively using the school’s website, the International Schools Review, and Google. She researched the country, the school, its mission and vision, the programs offered, and its administration. Interviews with the primary principal, secondary principal, and head of school left her 100% sure AIS would challenge her and motivate her to “explore new and creative ideas.” Ijanaya encourages prospective international educators to research prospects thoroughly and advises,
If possible, reach out to staff members who work at the school to get their perspective, but also keep an open mind and be objective about the information you receive. You never truly know what the experience of working in a school is until you actually set foot there.