As Reported in Geist Magazine - Click here to view on Geist Magazine
The Indiana School Counselor Association has named Connie Sivertson the 2021 School Counselor of the Year. Co-chairman of the Lawrence North High School counseling department, Sivertson was humbled and surprised when she was notified of the honor. She looks forward to using the platform to highlight mental health awareness.
“I was blown away when I got the phone call that I had won the award,” she says. “It was surreal. It seemed like one of the things that other people get. I feel grateful but my philosophy is all about the team approach. No one can be great unless everyone is great, and between all nine counselors at Lawrence North, there is someone for every student, every time.”
Originally from North Dakota, Sivertson has been an educator for 31 years. After graduating from college, she and her husband attended a job fair where around 20 schools from the western United States were represented. Both were interested in Yuma, Arizona, and accepted teaching jobs there. Six years later, after the birth of their first child, they decided it was time to move back to the Midwest.
“I had just finished my counselor’s degree and had a sister living in Carmel,” Sivertson says. “I got a job as a counselor at Craig Middle School. When it closed in 2010, I had been a counselor for 14 years so I was offered a position at another middle school, Fall Creek Valley. Then I found out a counselor was retiring at Lawrence North and I decided to try high school. I absolutely love high school. It’s beyond rewarding to be part of the students’ journey, and see them blossoming as the world opens as they take classes available to them. It’s really thrilling when they graduate and come out of high school as young adults.”
Sivertson also serves as an adjunct professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She teaches individual appraisement to future counselors. The opportunity to stress the importance of mental health comes up in her class.
“A school counselor is not just a person who creates class schedules,” she says. “They are highly trained mental health professionals. No one goes into this profession who is not 100% all-in for kids and their families. COVID has brought to light the immense need for mental health care in our society. The number and magnitude of students with anxiety and depression has increased due to isolation, fear and politics. We need to normalize and destigmatize mental health care, just as we would if treating a physical problem.”
A recent addition to the school’s counseling department is Nugget, a service dog who was matched with the school through the Indiana Canine Assistant Network and lives with Sivertson. The dog has already comforted many students since arriving in late January.
“No one has come forth saying they were the one who nominated me for the award,” Sivertson says. “I was so humbled and grateful as I filled out the application and remembered people who mentored me. My job is the best. Kids today are globally and community aware. They are filled with compassion for each other and the world.”