Guidance beyond career advice

From a student’s first moments in preschool to their final days in high school, there are cognitive, social and emotional considerations that should be addressed to ensure their continued success.

For school guidance counsellors at Cayman International School, their role goes beyond helping students become who and what they want to be when they grow up. It’s about identifying and understanding their strengths, needs and areas of opportunity at each stage of their development.

Middle School Guidance Counselor Andie Urquhart says the school aims to identify these areas annually.

“We conduct a needs-based assessment at the start of each school year where we talk to the kids — ‘What do you need? What’s happening in your life right now?’ — to understand why they may need the counsellor to come in,” says Urquhart.

To acknowledge and address their students’ developmental needs, school counsellors also work with the teachers.

“Every Wednesday, our teachers, student support team and I meet to talk about our students," says Urquhart. "It can be about celebrations — it’s not just for areas of concern — and we talk about all 184 kids [in middle school]. It’s refreshing that the school really cares enough to make sure we have this designated planning time that we can sit in one room and make sure we are all on the same page for our students.”

Cayman International School has six guidance counsellors covering each level of the school and, by design, each developmental stage. This group includes an early childhood learning support teacher who addresses the social and emotional component, and designated counsellors for kindergarten through grade two, grade three through five, middle school, and two in high school who focus on academic and university counselling and social and emotional counselling. 

high school counsellor
Cayman International School Middle School counsellor Andie Urquhart talks with two students. Photo: Ariel Thompson

It is convenient to have the entire team of counsellors on site at the school; it gives the counsellors comfort in knowing that they are nearby to provide support on a mix of simple to complex topics.

Laurie Mackaill, guidance counsellor for kindergarten through grade two, spoke about how their support extends beyond the classroom.

“First and foremost [our support] goes to the students, but I think the support for parents goes hand in hand, especially those of our younger students,” says Mackaill. "I see our role as like the triage at a hospital for issues parents may be having [with their children] and are just in need of a different lens to look at it and provide alternative solutions.”

Because Cayman offers a supportive community for families, the school counsellors connect parents with external resources when necessary as an extension of their efforts to ensure students are receiving the best support, not only at school, but also at home.

For more information on guidance and support at Cayman International School, visit

This article first appeared in the April 2021 print issue of Camana Bay Times.

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About the author

Ariel Thompson is a content manager at Dart, having joined the company in 2017. A lifelong writer, Ariel was born and raised in the Cayman Islands before studying abroad at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, for her degree in public relations and film and television. With eight years of experience in communications, Ariel joined Dart after working as Cayman International School’s first marketing communications officer. As her name would suggest, Ariel is a Disney fan and has a singing voice to rival The Little Mermaid’s. She loves to conceptualise TV and movie scripts and hopes one day to be a director. When in Camana Bay, Ariel can be found enjoying Mizu Asian Bistro + Bar’s Pad Thai, or shopping with friends and a scoop of gelato in hand.

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