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Full Circle Moment

International Education: Stories From the Field
By Cheryl-Ann Weekes
Full Circle Moment

In this collection of stories, international educators share their unique experiences, insights, and perspectives. These accounts include how some began their international school career, things to consider if you’re curious about the international teaching landscape, what they’ve learned along the way, and the unparalleled journeys on this career path.

Join us as we delve into the stories of these inspiring educators and gain a deeper understanding of the transformative power of education across borders.



Hi, my name is Cheryl-Ann Weekes, and I am currently working in Dubai in the UAE [United Arab Emirates]. I have been working internationally since 2010. My first time I left the United States to go and work internationally was in August 2010, and the first country was the Dominican Republic. I worked with this really small school called Cap Cana Heritage School in Punta Cana, and the unique thing about that school is that it was the first graduating class, and they were only eight students. Full circle moment is this year I moved to Dubai in January to work at Fair Green International School and it's the first graduating class again and guess what, eight students again. So full circle moment.

How did I get into international school counseling? I was working in DC [Washington DC, United States of America] at a charter school. And there was a woman named Rebecca, who I had worked with previously in a public school in DC, and I said to her at the end of the year, "Hey, Rebecca, what are you doing this summer?" And she says, "Well, here is what I'm doing." But then she said, "Next year I won't be here. I'm going to Spain." I said, "Well, what are you doing in Spain?" And she says, "Teach English." I said, "You mean like English as a second language?" She said, "No, I'm going to teach English in an international school." And I said to her, "Ooh, do you think that there are counselors that do that?" And she said, "Of course. I'll send you the organization that I work with."

And so, for me, that was also a full circle moment because I was born in Barbados. I moved to Boston at the age of 11. And my mother will tell you that for the first-probably five or six years-all I talked about was when I graduate from high school I'm going back to Barbados. That did not happen. I built a life in the US [United States] and I had a great life but in that moment in 2009 when Rebecca said she was going to Spain, something went off in me and I was like ooh I can go live abroad and experience being a counselor there and initially I thought, I'll go for a year, I'll find a job, that's a year and I'll come back. Well, here I am in 2023 and I've not been back to the US yet. So, it's been a great opportunity. I will say I learned a lot about myself as a counselor, as a human being. I think the biggest lesson and what kept me going as an international school counselor was that I learned balance because when I lived and worked in DC public schools, I was running myself ragged. I was burning out. I was frustrated. I felt, at times, unsupported. I didn't have enough resources and one of the nice things, especially about the school and the DR [Dominican Republic], is that the resources were plentiful. There was so much support. I was encouraged to take my lunch, you know? It was 360 for me, you know? Because in DC, I was eating lunch at two o 'clock, three o 'clock, sometimes four o 'clock, you know? But in this school, this little school in Punta Cana, the Principal would come in and be like, “Hey, don't forget to go to lunch.” People would go and sit at the lunchroom and talk to each other. The teachers, the Principal would come sometimes, even the Head of School once a week would come and sit in the cafeteria and eat lunch. So I learned balance, and that was something of course that we all need as counselors. The other thing that I learned was resources, that there were so much resources out there, that my job could be so much easier. So, while living in a DR was not easy personally, professionally, I gained so much and I ended up extending another year because initially, the contract was only for one year. I ended up extending and then at the end, in the middle of those two years, I decided, ooh, I want to keep doing this.

Fun fact, my second job in Jamaica, I got through TIE. I had a TIE account at the time because it was the most economical. And you know I got on. I did my resume and all the things. And I found the school in Jamaica. And you know they reached out to me and interviewed me, and I got the job. So, it was my first job, first application. It was like November. I didn't know what to do with myself because it was not- I didn't even know you could get a job that early, you know, and so I've used TIE. And, you know, I've also written an article or two in TIE, so I'm really familiar with TIE. I read it a lot and now I'm teaching the course at PTC [Principals’ Training Center], you know, which is connected to TIE again. So, there's a lot of full circle moments for me that come from TIE, that brings me back to TIE, and so it's been a great experience.

What I love the most about being an international counselor is getting exposure to different cultures, of course, because every time you go to a new country you're learning something about that culture. I am a history kind of buff. I love to go to museums, so that's part of the fun for me is going and learning things about a community about a culture but also getting to know different students, getting to learn different resources.

The other thing I say to people, international school students are the same in the ways that they want to be valued, heard, helped, but the truth is the schools are well-resourced. They're so well-resourced. Departments, at least in my experience, departments are fuller. I'm not the only counselor in a school, even though that exists for some people, but I've always felt that resources and I got to do PD [professional development]. That was the other thing that was more difficult in the US. It was limited. The schools that I worked at in the international arena, I got to go to different PD opportunities, and that to me was the richest part of it. But I got to work with people from all over the world. I got to learn new things, you know, that I didn't know before. I got to learn about the IB [International Baccalaureate]. I am not sure I would have learned about the IB if I had stayed in DC. So, I got to do a lot professionally and personally.

Cheryl-Ann Weekes is a high school counselor in her 26th. She has worked in Boston and Washington, DC and has been working globally since 2010. She currently lives in Dubai. Cheryl-Ann is an expert in social emotional counseling, mental health, and university counseling. What she loves most about her work is the opportunity to have individual conversations with her students about strategies for dealing with stress, anxiety, developing positive mental health, and positive self talk. She believes that students should have access to social emotional lessons that highlight the importance of self-awareness, self management, stress management, resilience, consent, and mental health awareness. She uses quotes from her favorite authors to teach lessons about resilience, self esteem, and mental health to her students. Cheryl-Ann created Weekes Enterprise, LLC in 2022 because she is passionate about the need to discuss mental health, boundaries, and consent with her students and community. She has done workshops on consent, boundaries, mental health for International School Services, Council of International Schools, International School Counseling Association, American International Schools in the Americas, and AIELOC. She taught the course Culturally Responsive Counseling in the International School for the Principal’s Training Center this past summer and will be teaching it again online starting in March.

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