Auke Bay Elementary School’s nurse is one of three school nurses across the nation nominated for the American Federation of Teachers Everyday Hero award.
LuAnn Powers was one of the first to be certified in the Juneau School District for nursing — something she did with Mendenhall River Community School nurse Marueen Hall recently.
There are several categories in which AFT members can be nominated, and two from Alaska are in the running this year. Powers was nominated, and selected as a semifinalist, in the health care division. There are two other semifinalists in her category.
Ryan Marquis, of Kenai, was selected in the public employees division. He is the lead maintenance supply specialist with he Kenai Peninsula Borough. There are four other finalists in his category.
Semifinalists are squaring off in an online voting process, which is open to the public, through Sunday. To vote, go to www.aft.org/everydayheroes.
Powers has been a nurse with the Juneau School District for 10 years — all of those years at Auke Bay. She has been in nursing for 30 years.
“I always wanted to be a nurse as a kid,” she said. “Every time I’d change my mind I’d go back to nursing. My mom is a nurse and a few aunts (are). I always wanted to help people feel better. I was always proud of my mom. People would say ‘oh, your mom took care of me at the hospital.’ It really had an impact.”
Powers had a lot of experience in hospital and clinical nursing — with experience in family practice. When her husband retired from the U.S. Coast Guard, she was also ready for a change. A friend who previously had the school nurse job approached her and told her she’d be great at it.
“I like being able to help kids understand their health and how to help them get back into the classroom,” Powers said. “You look at the whole person. Sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes its really physical. There are so many factors. You can get an idea of what they’re all about. Sometimes it can be family issues.”
Powers believes school nurses are important because they can help find out what’s ailing a student without disrupting the classroom. Powers said teachers can send the students down to her office and sort out things they might not have time for.
She’s excited for what can be done within the realm of school nursing.
“Marueen Hall, another nurse at Mendenhall River Community School, and I became certified nurses over the fall,” she said. “We studied together over the summer. We were the first school nurses to be certified (in Juneau). It’s like a teacher being highly qualified. It gives us a really good picture of what we need to do. There are so many factors school nurses can be involved in. It opened our eyes to what can be done.”
Powers was greeted with a special visit on Monday morning — Sen. Dennis Egan stopped by to congratulate her.
“I don’t know who nominated me,” Powers said. “It’s a great surprise. I feel like ‘why me, there are a lot of other heroes I’m surrounded by.’”
Powers thanked Egan for his support of education funding in the budget process this year. Egan said the legislation won’t help Juneau out as much, as the Legislature passed a revenue sharing deal so the funds will go to the city and the cities will decide how to allocate it.
“We had a much better idea, which would increase the BSA (Base Student Allocation) and let the schools figure it out,” he said. “They would have had a reason to not worry about it. It had three-year funding.”
Powers said the challenge with school funding is there isn’t forward-funding so it makes it hard to plan from year to year.
“We’re proud of you, we really are,” Egan said. “We’re really attuned to funding education and keeping kids healthy and you’re a major part of it.”
Powers said she loves what she does.
Powers joined with the school nurses of the district to push to keep them through the budget cuts. The initial proposal by district administration cut six of 10 school nurses, instead replacing them with “health assistants.” The cuts instead called for elimination of two nursing positions and the health assistant idea was scrapped.
“We just came back from a school nurse conference and the whole theme was mental health — anything to do with early attachment,” she said. “It’s a growing problem and there is more of a push for getting nurses in every building.”
Powers said there is a lot of importance in early relationships with infants and small children.
If she’s chosen as the winner, she will get to attend a conference in Detroit in July.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.