Keeping kids healthy

CLARION – “You can’t educate a child who isn’t healthy; you can’t keep a child healthy who isn’t educated.”

Clarion-Goldfield Elementary Principal Tricia Rosendahl, said the previous quote is used often by elementary and middle school nurse Katie Stecher, as she works to keep her students healthy.

Is head lice making its way through the school? Stecher will follow up.

Is a student’s immunizations up to date? She keeps the information recorded electronically.

What about food allergies? Stecher works with students, teacher, their families and family doctors.

“We live in a very caring community,” she said. “I have a ‘school nurse fund’ with money given to the school for everything from mittens to help with eyeglasses if funds seem to be a problem for the family.”

Stecher’s to-do list during the course of a year reads like one of her student’s textbooks: listen to students’ daily pains and “owies,” dispense daily medications, and chart heights and weights of all elementary students both at the beginning and ending of the year.

“Not only do we like to chart the progress of each student’s growth, we also want to make as much of an impact as possible with healthy eating choices,” she said.

If someone is missing from school, the family can expect a call from Stecher to learn what the problem might be and if there is a way the school can help.

“Katie is very organized and detailed as she deals with the health of our students,” said Rosendahl. “She has the best interests in mind of not only the kids but also their families. Her ultimate goal is to have healthy kids both in our school and in their individual homes.”

Stecher keeps tabs on nearly 500 elementary students as well as more than 200 middle schoolers.

Sometimes, her work extends to the staff, as well. “We do blood pressure checks for the staff, as well as blood draws the first day of school and give flu shots to the staff who would like them,” she said.

Stecher also, from time to time, trains staff on some new medical procedure which they may find useful in their individual classrooms.

“We do vision screenings for our 3-year-old preschoolers,” she said. “Each year the kindergarten students make a visit to our local optometrist for eye checks.

“Our school participates in the ‘I-Smile’ program offered by the state of Iowa,” she said. “We screen our 4-year-old students, pre-kindergartners and kindergarten students. The program puts sealants on all second-grade students’ teeth. And we participate in the ninth-grade screening program when a dental hygienist comes into our school. The purpose is to check for cavities.”

If any cavities are found, the hygienist makes referrals for the student to seek help from a dentist.

Stecher serves on the Iowa Specialty Hospital Board of Directors and meets monthly with the newly formed Wright County Wellness Committee.

“Many community programs are not mine,” said Stecher, “but I like to work with initiatives to make them succeed.”

She also lends her science expertise to second- and sixth-grade students as they dissect animal eyes and hearts, respectively, as part of their classwork.

Stecher said it is sometimes hard to get as much “health stuff” into the curriculum as she would like, because of the focus on reading and math studies.

“But there are ways that things can be introduced within existing programs,” she said. “This is a job that is very easy to enjoy. I really love my job.”