By Hannah Saunders
Three Northshore School District nurses have been nominated for the LifeChanger of the Year award that recognizes K-12 educators and school district employees across the country. The trio also has a chance to win up to $3,000 apiece with $1,500 going to each individual and $1,500 going to their school.
The nominees are Debra Murphy from Woodin Elementary School, Kelli Wax from Secondary Academy for Success and Michelle Song from Kokanee Elementary School.
To be eligible for the award, each must have a positive impact on the lives of students, demonstrate top-tier leadership skills, display commitment toward developing nurturing environments and follow the highest ethical and moral standards.
Song, a substitute nurse in the Northshore School District until she was hired as full-time a employee at Kokanee in 2016, was nominated by principal Joe Fagundes.
“Michelle is truly the best nurse ever, and I do not know what I would do without her. She is the LifeChanger of the Year,” Fagundes said.
Song was taken aback by Fagundeses comment.
“I’m not one that seeks out praise and compliments, I’m more of a behind the scenes kind of person,” Song said. “So, to see my principal’s kind words and accolades for all the tasks that I have been doing was so heart-warming. Though I am the face to this nomination, all of this would not be possible without the support of my staff and colleagues.”
Kelli Wax spent 25 years caring for cancer patients. But when her children started attending school, she decided to switch gears. Wax frequently volunteered to assist her son’s school nurses. For the past six years, she has been the school nurse for the Secondary Academy of Success.
“Secondary Academy for Success or SAS as it is known is an alternative high school,” Wax said. “We offer smaller classes with more individual help in order for them to find success both academically and in learning life skills.”
Some of her job responsibilities include assisting students and families with finding resources such as food and clothing, caring for 18-to-21-year-old students who are developmentally delayed and contributing to the school’s crisis plan for students who are at risk of suicide. Wax mentioned that she does not see many physical injuries in her office.
“We are more likely to have issues with mental health, coping, attendance, or just needing someone to talk to,” Wax said. “When I first came to SAS, every day was a struggle because I didn’t know how to help kids with these big problems. Over time, I have learned that I don’t need to solve everything—I just need to help kids get through the rough moments and on to the better times.”
Wax was nominated for the LifeChanger of the Year award by principal Donna Tyo and colleague Laurie Broulette.
“I am honored to have been nominated for this award by my peers,” Wax said. “I am not a life changer by myself. I work with a team of people who help to change peoples’ lives. The proof is in the success stories of our students.”
Debra Murphy, also known as “Nurse Deb,” has always wanted to get involved with public health nursing. When her children were attending Lockwood Elementary, she began substituting as a school nurse.
“I found school nursing a perfect fit for my passion for community-centered healthcare,” Murphy said.
Murphy was a substitute nurse for five years and has worked for the Northshore School District for 25 years, with plans to retire after this school year. Fifteen years ago, Murphy started Woodin Elementary School’s food bank, “Families Helping Families.”
“She is the most amazing nurse,” Principal Dan Bowers said. “I would love to see her recognized for her great work.”
Murphy’s colleague Kristin Merritt nominated her for the LifeChanger of the Year Award.
“This nomination is very thoughtful,” Murphy said. “I have been so happy to be a part of the Woodin community for over 20 years. This is such an honor to share the great work we have done to support our families.”
LifeChanger of the Year is accepting nominees until Dec. 31. To nominate your life changer, visit https://www.lifechangeroftheyear.com/