Baylie Tharman | staff writer
New WHS counselor Wendy Leenerts joined the district thanks to the Alma Elementary principal Robert Schawo.
“I had never been to Wabaunsee. I used to work with the principal who works at the Alma Elementary School and he knew I was looking for a job so he told me about this opening,” Leenerts said.
Leenerts said her role as a counselor is being there for the kids. “I’m working with kids on their social and emotional well being. Like how they’re doing and if they struggle with anxiety and depression,” she said. Leenerts job isn’t just working and helping students. “The first month I scheduled a lot of classes which I did not know how to do until I came here since I was an elementary counselor last year.”
She hasn’t always been a counselor. She and her husband have fostered children for 11 years. “When we had fostered kids in and out of our house, they had a lot of trauma and I didn’t know how to help them,” she said. She kept asking her social workers what she could do to help the kids, but no one had the answers. So she decided to go back to school and get her degree in counseling. “I’m not done yet, but I’ll be done in May with school counseling and clinical counseling then I’ll be able to help kids and make a difference,” she said.
Before her job at the high school, Leenerts worked with autistic children. “With autistic children there were lots of different challenges,” she said. She talked about the challenges that the kids faced when they tried to communicate with someone. “Some of them could use an iPad to communicate and some of them couldn’t communicate at all. So they got frustrated very easily.”
Leenerts isn’t all about work. In her free time she likes to do any activity with her kids, and eat and hangout with her friends. Since being at Wabaunsee, Leenerts has had lots of positive things to say about the school. “The kids at Wabaunsee are very easy going. They are very friendly, and they are willing to answer any questions that I may have,” she said.
Last year she worked at Highland Park Central Elementary in Topeka. “It was more multicultural. So I miss that part of it, but there are more issues with the kids because they come from very hard backgrounds. So there’s a lot of behavioral issues,” she said.