Mispillion Elementary’s Sue Smith is Delaware School Nurse of the Year

Mispillion Elementary School Nurse Sue Smith’s office was flooded with high emotions Tuesday afternoon. But this time, she wasn’t prepared for the reason behind the tears.

After a slew of school leaders and fellow nurses paraded in with hugs, balloons and flowers, President of the Delaware School Nurse Association

Chriss Zimmerman handed Ms. Smith a plague, surprising her as the newest Delaware School Nurse of the Year.

“There are over 300 of us in the state. We each contribute something special to all of our students. It was really difficult to choose,” Ms. Zimmerman said, adding that the committee unanimously chose Ms. Smith for the award.

“She has done so much for everyone, for the school and for the community…. I now understand she grew up here, so this really is her community. We salute her; we are proud to call her one of our Delaware school nurses but, more importantly, our Delaware School Nurse of the Year.”

Now in her 24th year of school nursing, she serves more than 560 students at Mispillion Elementary School and 65 staff members. During her career, she has also worked as an operating room nurse and other nursing roles with Bayhealth and local doctors. Altogether, Ms. Smith has 41 years of nursing experience under her belt.
“Twenty-four years ago, I substituted to see if it was kind of what I wanted to do and I loved it. I love working with the kids, so I was given the opportunity in Milford for a position at Banneker and was there for 15 years. Then I went to the [Milford Central] Academy when they opened, and then I had the opportunity to come back to elementary. I really like working with the young kids because I think it’s that opportunity to teach them some self-care and how to take care of themselves.”
With an emphasis on the “total child” in mind, Ms. Smith often offers her expertise outside of her office, as well, in hopes of creating safer environments for students.
She recently worked with Lincoln teen Lake Vasey advocating for an increased availability of EpiPen autoinjectors at schools and on buses throughout the state for students with known and unknown allergies alike.
“The problem there is the cost. It might not happen, but we can say we put our best foot forward. I am also working with Representative Bryan Shupe to increase the nurse to student ratio. Some schools have one to 1,000,” she said.
She is a member of the Licensure Certification Committee which helps review regulations for teachers and specialists in Delaware. She also sits on the Professional Standards of Education Board.
“It’s pretty awesome to be recognized. I think that school nurses, we’re a unique group of nurses because we kind of work independently in the schools where we don’t have anybody we can look at and just say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this or that. . .’ And I think it shows that you go above and beyond those things not only in the school setting but in the community, as well,” Ms. Smith said. “We do make a difference in the lives of our kids.”
Leaders from the district, including Superintendent Dr. Kevin Dickerson and Ms. Wallace from Mispillion Elementary School, touted her health leadership not just at Mispillion, but with staff members districtwide.

I’ve known Sue for 18/19 years. I have a great deal of respect for her. We’re very fortunate to have you here with us working in the Milford School District,” Dr. Dickerson told her during a staff meeting after the announcement.

Ms. Wallace echoed his comments.
“Today, Sue Smith is not only Mispillion’s school nurse, but also Delaware’s school nurse. She is being recognized for her knowledge and devotion to the public health profession,” she told staff members shortly after the announcement. “If there is a health crisis or an emotion situation, we go to Sue. We have had lots of success and we know that. But we could not have done that without Sue.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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