For one coach, overcoming the challenges of education means setting goals that work for her students—and cheering them on as they achieve each milestone

For Coach Adrienne Jamerson, working at Smart Horizons Career Online High School (SHCOHS) means operating from—and thriving in—a place of positivity. As one of the newest coaches to join the organization, Adrienne knew that a career pivot from teaching to academic coaching would be a natural fit for her. “Coming from a background in teaching, I understand there are myriad challenges at every level of learning. What sets successful students apart is having support and encouragement to move forward when they encounter challenges.”

Prior to joining SHCOHS, Adrienne taught at various grade levels for almost 10 years. During that time, she regularly communicated with the parents of her students, oftentimes explaining the curriculum or schoolwork—a valuable skill that has helped her relate to how adults learn.

Seeing students for their whole selves
Understanding how adults learn is just one piece of the puzzle. “The school’s flexible environment and self-paced structure is ideal for adults, whether they’re balancing work and school, family commitments, or something else,” shares Adrienne.

Adrienne also commends the personalized nature of her role. “In my role as a coach, I get to know each of my students and their unique situations. I look at the whole picture, and in doing so, get to know my students as whole people. I believe these hands-on relationships play a critical role—one that benefits the students as well as the coaches.”

By understanding the outside influences that have kept her students from graduating previously—as well as the roadblocks they’re experiencing now—Adrienne embraces that her students’ journeys to graduation are as unique as they are. “Together we make a map to the next destination. I remind my students that there are many avenues to arriving at the finish line,” she says.

Overcoming the roadblocks of educational trauma
What about her own journey to completing her education? “When I was young, education was an obligation; I went to classes and did my homework because I was supposed to. Education wasn’t something I was passionate about until later in life.”

Now, when Adrienne sees some of her students just going through the motions, she aims to intervene immediately.

She says the school’s “upside-down curriculum” creates a sense of relevancy that helps re-engage students in education. Students start with their chosen career major first, before moving on to the core academic subjects. This means their initial coursework is in an area that they have chosen and interests them—versus mandated courses that don’t feel as relevant to their career goals. But, losing sight of the end goal happens. By reinforcing to her students that the actions they take now will set them up to achieve the success they want later, Adrienne hopes they’ll course-correct and stay motivated.

She recognizes that some of her students have experienced educational trauma from being in a classroom, whether from challenges with other students, teachers, or their own personal struggles. To help them cope, Adrienne leans on the school’s culture of positive reinforcement. “I remind my students that—in this non-traditional environment—the challenges they once faced won’t be replicated. They won’t be reprimanded the way they might have been in the past. Our competency-based learning model alleviates the fear of failure many students have. There is no such thing as failure; this is a place of understanding, positivity, and empowerment.”

Teamwork makes the dream work
So, what makes Adrienne most excited about her role with SHCOHS? “I really love sharing in the successes of my students,” she shares. “Whether they hear from me via text or email with an ‘I see you acing that course!’ or simply a friendly nudge to keep striving for their next goal, I am honored to be a listener and mentor—and to play a role in guiding them towards their bright futures.”