Career Development

Interview with Dean of Students Mrs. Olga Hernandez

When choosing to pursue a career in education, it is important to hear the experiences of others in this field. K12Jobs has interviewed Olga Hernandez, a Dean of Students in New Jersey, to hear her perspective on the education world. Hearing her experience will help shine a light on what it is like being a Dean of Students as well as some of the education that is needed and what it is like in the day of the life of a Dean of Students. 

Q. Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

A. Olga Hernandez is my name; I am a sociologist and an educator that resides in Union City, New Jersey. I’m a person who never gives up; I'm focused, persistent, and driven. In terms of education, which I truly believe no one can ever take away from you, it provides stability in life. By attending college and holding a degree, you can increase your chances of landing a better job and opening new doors for yourself. I, therefore, hold an Associate's in Early Childhood Education, a Bachelor's in Sociology, a Master's in Urban Education, and a second Master in School Administration (Educational Leadership). In addition, I will begin work on my Doctor of Education (E.D.) in Educational Technology Leadership this coming summer 2023.

Q. What inspired you to become a Dean of Students? 

A. To make a difference in each of my student’s educational endeavors. Without a doubt, Deans of students create high standards for teachers, staff, and students, encourage their growth and development, and uphold them. Within their school, deans foster a supportive work and learning environment. Since We are advocates, a successful dean always puts the needs of the students above all else. You must have outstanding critical thinking ability to understand the needs of your school, faculty, and students and find practical solutions, notably for a healthy, positive, and safe teaching and learning environment. 

Q. What are your goals? What would you like to see happen this year?

A. The Dean of Students is a key leader on the school’s Instructional Leadership Team. Therefore, my objective for the current academic year is to oversee an elementary (K–5) behavior management system that is supportive of students in making positive behavioral decisions, and that enables them to fix and accept responsibility for errors. I will work closely with the school principal and the Assistant principal of my school to define and cleverly pursue challenging objectives for the school’s atmosphere. I will support the leadership team in advancing the school's vision for a culture that is positive and values-driven. And in my contact with students and the constant application of behavior protocols, I'll try to make sure that all adults in the building follow the school culture’s vision.

Q. Since the pandemic, many students have continued facing social and emotional issues. What are you doing to try to address these issues?

A. Set up the knowledge, abilities, and behaviors necessary for students to comprehend and control their emotions through the use of effective problem-solving, the development of empowering goals, and feelings of empathy for others. 

Example: I Show up and pay attention.

I must be present and perceptive in order to determine what my students are finding challenging. I pay attention to the language kids use to interact with their classmates and the ways in which they react to challenging circumstances. To get to know the students better outside of the classroom, I go to the cafeteria for lunch with them rather than eating with coworkers. Students are more willing to share stories about words that trigger them, friends who have hurt them, events at home they wish they could change, and even what I can do to make our classroom more positive the more I make myself available to them.

Q. Can you describe a typical day as Dean of Students?

A. The School Dean of Students, a 12-month leadership role, is responsible for working closely with students, teachers, and parents to build and maintain a positive, safe school climate and culture that promotes character and academic growth. The School Dean of Students will report to the Head of School, collaborate closely with the Head of School (The Principal) and the Assistant Head of School (Assistant Principal), and participate as a member of the school leadership team (The administrative Team). So, the Dean of Students works with a high level of independence and professional discretion under the general supervision of the school principal. The work is governed, controlled, and evaluated by acceptable professional practice and school/ state policies and regulations.

Q. What can parents, teachers, and administrators do to support someone in your role?

A. All stakeholders must connect in a meaningful way through collaboration in order to build effective educational systems and learning environments. In conclusion, active doing and attentive listening are necessary for successful collaboration between all parties involved. All sides feel seen, heard, and respected as a result of open, honest communication, and in the end, it's the connection and compassion developed through those positive connections that lead to effective teaching and learning outcomes.

Q. What is something you wish people knew about being a Dean of Students?

A. The Dean of Students works with the school Principal and the Assistant Principal in carrying out the school’s academic and behavioral programs. As a professional educator, the Dean of Students understands and responds to the challenges presented by our diverse student population. The Dean of Students provides proactive leadership to engage all stakeholders in the delivery of programs and services to support the student’s academic achievement and personal and social development. The Dean of Students works cooperatively with the principal, counselor, health coordinator, staff, students, and parents toward a positive school climate.

In another note: Potential job titles within the umbrella of school administration include the following:

  • Principal
  • Assistant Principal
  • Dean of Students
  • Department chair “Supervisors”
  • Assistant Supervisors 
  • Bilingual at risk
  • Coaches 

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