Middle School Counselor Feature: Andy Leonardo, Huntington
Published on 2/9/17
District News Huntington K-8 School
How many years have you served as a school counselor at Huntington?
I have had the privilege of serving Huntington students, parents and faculty for the last 10 years.
What path did you take to become a school counselor? What made you decide that school counseling was the path for you?
School Counseling was a career change for me. After working in a cutthroat business management position, I quickly discovered that I was in the wrong line of work. Every month my company would print out a ranking of the top sales associates for the month, and I found myself hoping for LAST place so everyone else would feel a little better about their ranking. I realized then that what was important to me was helping other people succeed. As I began looking for a new career, a teen from the youth group that I volunteered at told me I reminded him of his school counselor. That prompted me to begin researching what it would take to become one. Soon after, I got accepted to graduate school at the University at Buffalo and after a long-term substitute position at Liverpool Middle School, I was hired at Huntington.
What is the most rewarding thing about working with Huntington students?
My favorite thing about working with my students is building relationships and establishing their trust. There is nothing more rewarding for me than to have one of my students feel safe and comfortable enough to tell me something they’re dealing with, maybe even something they’ve never been able to tell anyone before. Then, I’m able to help them heal by working through some of their fears, anxieties or other issues that they are dealing with.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
One of the most challenging parts of being a school counselor is that many people still have the wrong impression of what we do. There is this impression of a traditional “guidance” counselor who sits in an office drinking coffee and fixing schedules all day, while interacting very little with the students they’re supposed to serve. Sometimes the hardest part is getting parents, kids, teachers, and administrators to understand how different the job is today. Today’s school counselor spends a great deal of time counseling, collaborating to improve our educational system, and even teaching in the classroom. We teach lessons about bullying prevention, the skills to be successful in school, graduation requirements, goal setting, how to research colleges and careers, and all sorts of other things. One of my personal favorites is giving kids a survey that helps them identify their personality type and then using that information to point them toward some of the careers that best fit their personality. There’s this prevailing theory that I totally buy into that says you are most likely to be successful in a career that you love because you will be highly motivated to do the job every day. When kids are highly motivated there is no limit to what they can accomplish.
Finish this sentence: SCSD students inspire me because…
So many of them are so brave! Despite the challenges and road blocks they face in their lives, most of them show up every day, try their hardest, and refuse to give up.
Thank you, Mr. Leonardo, for all you do! #SCSDThanksCounselors