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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Jeyabuvana Jeyaraj

Gordon:  When did you attend the University of Madras, what degree did you earn, who was your favorite teacher, and why was that?

JeyaRaj: My time at Madras University broadened my horizons, providing insights into cultural nuances and diverse approaches to psychology. Chennai's vibrant academic environment nurtured my passion for understanding the intricacies of human interaction within organizational and educational settings. While studying for my Master of Science in General Psychology, one standout figure was Dr. P. David Jawahar, a Professor of Management.


Dr. Jawahar's teaching style in organizational psychology left a lasting impression. He expertly guided us through the subject matter with an authoritative tone, revealing insights beyond the textbooks. It was evident that his background influenced his approach; being the son of a politician likely shaped his perspective and teaching style. Overall, Dr. Jawahar’s mentorship and support in the "Professional Development" class have shaped my professional journey, instilling in me the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to thrive in the dynamic field of organizational psychology. His lectures were engaging and impactful, making him a favourite among students.


Gordon: When did you attend the National University of San Diego, what are you studying, what is your favorite class to date, and why is it your favorite?


JeyaRaj: I attended the National University in San Diego for the past couple of years and am currently enrolled in a few classes where I've been pursuing a Professional Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential for school psychology. Throughout my time there, one class that stood out as my favorite was "Ethical Consideration and Policies" with Dr. Karen Pivirotto.


Dr. Pivirotto's support and guidance were invaluable as she taught the material and went above and beyond to mold me into a well-rounded professional. Her commitment to fostering our growth in areas such as Ethical Practice & Privacy, Leadership & Team Building, IEP & 504 Plan Implementation, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Consultation & Collaboration was evident in her extensive support network and resourcefulness.


What made this class my favorite was Dr. Pivirotto's dedication to ensuring that we understood the theoretical aspects and had practical tools and resources at our disposal to excel in our future roles as school psychologists. Her personalized approach and willingness to provide additional support whenever needed created a nurturing learning environment that empowered me to tackle challenges in my field confidently.


Gordon:  Where and when did you serve as a biological science teacher, and what are some of your favorite memories from there?


JeyaRaj: As a teacher of Biological Science at a renowned school dedicated to education and sports, I had the privilege of creating a school garden. This initiative aimed to provide practical knowledge for children while fostering a deep connection with nature. One of my most cherished memories is when the news of our school garden went viral, capturing the attention of all staff members and even attracting birds and butterflies seeking solace and joy amidst the natural resources.

The garden became a sanctuary within the school grounds, offering a peaceful retreat where students could engage with the environment firsthand. Witnessing the garden's transformation into a hub of life and learning was immensely gratifying. It symbolized the power of education and the profound impact of reconnecting with the natural world.

This experience reinforced my belief in the importance of hands-on, experiential learning and the profound joy of nurturing a connection with our surroundings. It's a memory I hold dear and a testament to the transformative power of education and nature's beauty.


Gordon: Tell us about your work at the Santa Clara County Office of Education


JeyaRaj: Currently, I serve as a Special Education service provider at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, where I've been a part of the Special Education Department since 2012. One of the most cherished aspects of my role here is witnessing the collaborative efforts of our special staff, who are deeply committed to championing our students' needs. We strive to provide academic support and alleviate the burdens of parents and caregivers while advocating tirelessly for each child's rights and resources.


A particularly fulfilling aspect of my job is teaching daily living skills—a simple yet profound investment in each child's lifelong development. Whether it's mastering basic tasks or fostering independence, I'm continually inspired by the progress and growth I see in my students. Our work here at the Santa Clara County Office of Education emphasizes the importance of empathy, collaboration, and dedication in supporting children with special needs. Every day, we're making a tangible difference in the lives of our students and their families, and that's a reward like no other.


Gordon:  Tell us about the failed housing policy, reduced public services, mass incarceration, and structural racism in Santa Clara


JeyaRaj: Santa Clara County grapples with systemic issues such as failed housing policies, reduced public services, mass incarceration, and structural racism, significantly impacting single parents, immigrants, and teaching professionals. Despite its reputation as a hub of innovation and prosperity, the county struggles with housing affordability, as evidenced by a staggering increase in homelessness. Data reveals a widening gap between income levels and housing costs, making it particularly challenging for single parents, immigrants, and teaching professionals to afford adequate housing. Limited affordable housing initiatives exacerbate these challenges, further straining already stretched budgets.


Moreover, cuts to public services disproportionately impact marginalized communities, including immigrants, who rely on these services for essential support. Mass incarceration rates remain alarmingly high, particularly among Black and Hispanic populations, highlighting systemic inequalities within the criminal justice system. Structural racism further compounds these challenges, manifesting in disparities in education, employment, and healthcare access. Addressing these multifaceted issues requires a comprehensive approach prioritizing equity, community engagement, and policy reform to foster a more just and inclusive Santa Clara County for all its residents, especially those most vulnerable.


Gordon: How do you propose fostering collaboration among government officials, community leaders, advocacy groups, and residents to collectively address the pressing issues of housing affordability, public services, mass incarceration, and structural racism in Santa Clara County?


JeyaRaj: Addressing the systemic challenges facing Santa Clara County requires collective action from various stakeholders, including government officials, community leaders, advocacy groups, and residents. Elected officials play a crucial role in enacting policy reforms that address housing affordability, invest in public services, and reform criminal justice practices. Community leaders and advocacy groups serve as powerful voices for marginalized communities, advocating for equitable policies and holding institutions accountable. Additionally, residents can drive change through civic engagement, grassroots organizing, and supporting initiatives prioritizing social justice and equity. Collaboration among these stakeholders is essential to effect meaningful change, as it requires a holistic approach that addresses the intersecting issues of housing, public services, incarceration, and racism. By working together, we can create a more just and inclusive Santa Clara County where all residents have access to opportunities and resources needed to thrive.


GordonHow do you envision the role of school psychologists in addressing and mitigating the impacts of structural racism within educational settings, particularly in Santa Clara County?


JeyaRaj: School psychologists in Santa Clara County play a crucial role in addressing structural racism within educational settings. They advocate for equity, promote culturally responsive practices, and collaborate with stakeholders to implement systemic change. By conducting culturally sensitive assessments, providing professional development, and advocating for policy changes, school psychologists work to create inclusive and equitable learning environments for all students.


Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.

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