Teachers are an integral part of the education system and are responsible for shaping the lives of many students throughout their tenure.
With the right guidance and nurturing, students are able to find their talents as well as hone in on their skills, which can then help them thrive in their future careers as well as their personal lives.
Louisa McGauley, Head Librarian at Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS), Arabian Ranches, is an amazing example of always putting the well-being of her students first and creating a safe space at school for their overall development.
With 26 years of teaching experience, Louisa started her teaching journey in the UK at a library in a university, and with a passion for reading cultivated over the years, knew that she had found her calling.
After moving to the UAE, Louisa has spent 21 years catering to the needs of students and helping them find their love for reading, while also letting them get lost in to the magical world of stories.
Louisa also heads a club at the school that helps in Period Empowerment and along with students, stitches reusable sanitary pads for young girls in Zambia.
Louisa shares a glimpse with Connector from her favourite teacher in school to how she makes daily classes interesting.
What inspired you to start teaching?
After university, I realised quite quickly that an office job was not for me and wondered how I could combine my love of reading with my obsessive organisational skills? As soon as I worked in my first library, I knew I had found my passion. I started in a UK university library but have worked in secondary schools since and have always found it incredibly rewarding.
How did you decide to teach your current subject?
Teaching library lessons is so much fun. Students can take a breather from their regular lessons and relax a little. There are no assessments, marking or reports, so students are able to unleash their creativity without judgement.
Why do you love teaching?
The JESS Secondary Library is a safe space for a lot of students, particularly at lunchtime. It is so important to make everyone feel included and cared for and I never underestimate the pastoral impact of the library, especially with vulnerable students. I love that I have a role where I get to know every student in the school and have the time to listen to them. There are also the times when a student has fallen out of love with reading, and I find the right book for them, and I see them suddenly remember how enjoyable it is to lose yourself in a book.
Do you remember your favourite teacher from school?
It was a very long time ago! I adored my English teacher, Miss Poulton. She was quirky, kind and engaging and brought every book to life. She also wore fabulous earrings.
How do you make everyday classes more interesting?
I love to encourage students to have lively debates and voice their opinions. I am incredibly lucky that library lessons support the curriculum but I have total autonomy in the topics that I teach. I always relate information literacy lessons to current affairs, anything from fake news to ChatGPT, nothing is off limits and teenagers always enjoy challenging each other’s viewpoints.
What is a unique part of the school?
Well I may be a bit biased, but I think a lot of people would agree that the JESS library is the heart of the school. It is full of laughter, music and students collaborating and socialising. There are also spaces for quiet studying, lounging with a book on a pile of cushions or grabbing a cup of tea in ‘StarBooks’, our self-service coffee corner. I hope that everybody always feels welcome.
Our JESS Secondary Library also features a sewing production area for our Period Empowerment ECA Club that I run. Period Empowerment sees volunteers sewing reusable sanitary towel packs, which we then distribute to underprivileged girls in Zambia. Did you know that owing to a lack of sanitary products, a lot of these ladies miss 25% of their school tuition because they have no choice but to stay at home during menstruation? Our Period Empowerment Chapter aims to address this issue by empowering these school-going-ladies not only with sanitary products but also by supplying them with materials, sewing machines and know-how to make their own. I feel that this is something really unique in a library setting, and we often see JESS students coming to sew not only during the ECA time but also in their breaks.
What would you do if you were not a teacher?
I would be running my own craft business and selling my creations at craft fairs.
Jumeirah English Speaking School, Arabian Ranches