Meet Orchard's Early Childhood and Elementary School Counselor Olivia Zienty

Olivia Zienty began her undergraduate studies at Augustana College, a small college in Rock Island, Illinois. She quickly chose psychology as a major and took every psychology class imaginable. She decided on school counseling her junior year, after spending a year interning at two separate elementary schools. Olivia graduated cum laude in 2018, with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. Shortly after that, she started a Master's program in School Counseling at Butler University, and she’s currently in her final year of that program. Due to the quality instruction and extensive nature of Butler’s program, year three primarily involves interning or working as a school counselor at your desired developmental level. Olivia also obtained an emergency license, which allows her to practice school counseling prior to her graduation date in May 2021. 
Olivia (who also goes by Livy) will be graduating in May of 2021, though she does not intend on stopping her education. She hopes to work towards an LMHC (licensed mental health certificate) license within the next five years. 
Get to know a little bit more about Orchard's Early Childhood and Elementary School Counselor Olivia Zienty below.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a suburb outside of Chicago, with my mother, father and younger brother. I had a wonderful childhood and spent my time on the soccer field, learning to play the guitar, and enjoying school. I have only ever lived in Illinois up until August of 2018, so I have really enjoyed getting to know Indiana.    

Where does your passion for counseling come from?
My passion for counseling stems from a few past experiences. My younger brother experienced some intense anxiety in 6th grade—he did not want to leave his bedroom let alone go to school. My parents never had any direct experience with mental illnesses and were at a loss of what to do. They reached out to the school counselor and hoped she would be able to help my family. The counselor was harsh, insensitive to his anxiety and scared my brother into not returning to school for the next few months. All we needed was a referral to an outside therapist, an idea of what to do, a glimmer of hope. Sadly, this was not the care and concern we received from the school counselor. Seeing someone so close to me struggle and the events that unfolded, it empowered me to study, train and work towards becoming that school counselor that my brother needed. Fast forward ten years and it is like none of this happened. My brother got the help that he needed and is now thriving. Although it was difficult at the time, this story has a happy ending!
This was not my only reason behind wanting to pursue school counseling. I had a wonderful school counselor in high school who was incredibly supportive and helped me believe in myself and excel in academics. I fell in love with psychology in my AP Psychology class in high school and went on to pursue a psychology degree because of it. Since the age of 12, I have been babysitting any chance I could get. I just love being around kids. Trying to understand their thoughts, behaviors, and seeing them develop and grow, it all brings me such joy. These messy, yet wonderful experiences have shaped who I am and why I am here at Orchard today.   

How did you hear about Orchard? 
By sheer coincidence, I ended up as a summer nanny for two families at Orchard. Does anyone remember the wonderful Jody Baker (a beloved teacher at Orchard for many years)? I had the pleasure of working for her son, Zach Baker’s, family and the Zelenak family this summer, though I thank Butler for the professional connection.    

Social and emotional learning is one of the core values of our school. How will your role as our elementary school counselor support this tenet? 
The fact that social and emotional learning (SEL) is a core value and implemented throughout everyday learning really sets Orchard apart from other schools. I am a firm believer that in order to do your best academically, you need to be at peace mentally. In order to provide the best education to students, we also need to encourage the continual development of social and emotional skills. My services in every way come together to assist all Orchard students socially, emotionally and academically. A few of my main responsibilities include the following: classroom guidance lessons, small group counseling, and brief individual counseling. I hope to deliver classroom lessons about social skills, emotional regulation, self-control, to highlight a few. In small groups, I can assist 4 to 6 students with an SEL skill or help them process through similar life events. Meeting with students one-on-one allows me to support and meet the needs of that specific student, whether that involves working on SEL development together or processing big feelings. Encouraging and supporting SEL development is what makes Orchard so unique and I hope to only further the SEL growth of Orchard’s elementary students. 
Favorite thing about Orchard so far?
It is difficult to pick just one. I love the community Orchard has created. I felt it the moment I entered the building. I was welcomed with open arms and continue to be amazed by the wonderful and talented faculty and staff. I love working in such a positive, supportive environment that largely contributes to the obvious high employee job satisfaction (you can tell Orchard employees love working here!), not to mention the open communication with parents. We are all one big team, and our goal is to do right by all Orchard students. I am so honored to be part of this team.  
What are some of your interests outside of work?
I keep myself quite busy outside of work! I have a two-year-old Dutch bunny named Willow who I love with all my heart. I play the guitar and am teaching myself to play the piano. I also really enjoy my creative outlets, painting and coloring. Lastly, I love to travel. So far, I have been to Italy, Sweden, England, Turks & Caicos, Jamaica and much of the United States. As soon as we can travel internationally again, my family is planning a trip to Poland.

Orchard families, click here to view a slideshow from Olivia 

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