Cienna Counts

Cienna Counts returned to her alma mater in March of 2022, working as an instructional assistant at East Primary School. In the fall of 2022, she transferred to a position working with special needs students at Sutherlin Middle School. Cienna, a 2019 graduate of Sutherlin High School, was a Sutherlin student from grades K-12. While in middle school, she participated in basketball and track, and then during high school, she participated in soccer, basketball, Special Olympics Unified Sports, and FFA. Participating in the Unified Basketball program greatly influenced Cienna. It opened her eyes to students with special needs and requiring assistance to take part in an environment that is often difficult for them to navigate. In this program, she realized there is a need for people who understand the dynamics of special needs students; the stress and frustrations they feel as they try to communicate, express their feelings, and accomplish tasks, frustrations which often manifest in behavioral issues.   Cienna has developed acceptance and a strong understanding that everyone has different needs, requiring unique considerations to help them succeed.

Cienna enjoyed being around friends in school, but by graduation, she was ready to move on from school, although she didn’t know what career she wanted to pursue. After graduating, Cienna was in a serious car accident, which limited her mobility and participation in activities for several months while her body healed. Once recovered, she found employment with Roseburg Honda as a receptionist, keeping an inventory of new and used vehicles. After six months, she accepted work at Clint Newell as a porter, moving cars in and around the service area and cleaning vehicles. Through a family friend, she connected with a caregiving service where she worked for close to a year, performing personal care tasks and activities with residents who had dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. Working with the residents, she discovered she wanted to be an instructor. In this position, she could help others who had difficulties understanding and expressing themselves and help others learn.

Now working with Sutherlin Middle School special needs students, Cienna draws upon her previous personal and work experiences. Cienna’s workday starts in the middle school activity center, talking with students. When classes start, she travels with assigned students during each class period. She works with twelve students daily, two to three students each period. She finds it ironic that the subject she works with the students on (math) is the same subject she struggled with the most in high school. In each class, she assists the students with taking notes and completing their assignments, working either as a group or individually when they struggle to understand the concepts or assignments. 

If she could have done things differently, she would have liked to start working for the school district even sooner. Recently, Cienna lost her nineteen-year-old cousin who had cancer since the age of three. She struggled with her emotions and expressing her grief, but through this, she learned, “No matter the struggles you are going through, don’t hold your emotions back; it’s important to be able to talk to someone to release those emotions. Holding those emotions back hurts even more.” This concept holds true for the students she sees daily -- she realizes that sometimes they need someone to listen to them without being judgmental. She recognizes the need to treat others kindly, that special needs individuals are often overlooked, ignored, or made fun of, and that each individual has a different set of struggles and challenges and comes from a different walk of life. 

Cienna lives in Sutherlin with her boyfriend. She enjoys drawing, reading, cooking big meals, baking, and running when she is not working. She would like to pursue formal education to become licensed to teach and work with special needs individuals.