New counselor Jaime MacDonald focuses on wellness


Photo credit: Allie Worchell

Jaime MacDonald and her dog Cleveland sit in MacDonald’s new office. MacDonald is Archer’s new school counselor.

After the departure of school counselor Patty Lancaster at the end of last year, Jaime MacDonald has joined the community as a new resource for both students and faculty. 

MacDonald started working as a teacher approximately 20 years ago in what was then called an ED classroom, a term for “emotionally disturbed” students. 

“I would say I was working with the smartest kids in the school, but something was getting in the way of them being able to be in the mainstream,” MacDonald said. “There were a lot of things happening: family problems, and there was some drug abuse. So we actually had a counselor that was assigned to our program who used to come and do crisis counseling.”

Despite the counselor’s presence, MacDonald, an English teacher at the time, felt there was a barrier to the students learning. 

“I thought, I need to learn more about how I can make sure that I understand what’s getting in the way of their learning — and not just learning disabilities,'” MacDonald said. “I really needed to understand more about the emotional side of things.”

MacDonald didn’t become a therapist immediately: after her second year of teaching, she returned to school to earn her masters in counseling from Kean University. Soon after obtaining her degree, MacDonald continued working for schools as a teacher and learning specialist at Sinai Akiba Academy. Most recently, she was a learning specialist at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences.

 “I loved that [position], and it allowed me to have a small private practice on the side. Learning disabilities and emotions go hand in hand, and so I liked the idea that I had both jobs,” MacDonald said. “But when I had the chance to interview here, to actually just focus on the emotional side, that really excited me, especially in an all-girls school. I saw what was going on in terms of private practice, and I thought, let me merge my two worlds and be able to be in a school and be a counselor.”

MacDonald has many goals for the upcoming year, the main one being wellness. She hopes to embed this idea into Archer culture and curriculum.

“I know our [Human Development] program does a phenomenal job at that, but making sure that everything that’s happening there is also happening in other parts of the school,” MacDonald said. “And again, I go back to this shared language [of wellness], so that we can have conversations about it and it’s both wellness from a faculty standpoint and a student standpoint.”

Even though MacDonald has worked outside of a school environment, she finds herself “coming back” every time. 

“There’s something about being in a school, and especially this one, that the second that I walked in, it has an energy,” she said. “Working with adolescents that are so passionate, as you should be, about everything…really is my love.”