LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kathy Laponsie

Position: School Nurse
School: Cass City Elementary School
School District: Cass City Public Schools
City, State: Cass City, MI

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Kathy Laponsie was nominated by her superintendent, Allison Zimba.

"While this last year certainly has provided challenges, there have been many positive things that have come out of it," explains Zimba. "Public health, managing the spread of illness, and the role of healthcare providers, especially school nurses, have been highlighted nationwide. The 2020/2021 school year was a year of change and growth, as every employee was required to adjust their practices to do what was best for our students. As this year ends, it is a great time to evaluate. Kathy has grown professionally in handling situations, communication, and leadership skills."

When Ms. Laponsie was hired into Cass City Public Schools, she became involved in the Michigan Association of School Nurses (MASN). Being involved in a professional organization helped her refine her skills and understand her role as a school nurse. School nursing and school health were much more than she initially thought when hired. Generally, in Michigan, the nursing specialty has been underutilized and undervalued.

As the school nurse, Ms. Laponsie is involved in the school community. This includes the following:

  • She is the sex advisory board supervisor.
  • She is a coordinated school health committee member and a member of the Best teams in both buildings.
  • She represents Cass City Schools as a Tuscola County Immunization Coalition member.
  • She is a member of the Family Planning Committee and the Behavioral Health Team.
  • She was involved with the Community Conversation Committee for Tuscola County and the Strategic Planning Committee for her district.
  • She is a certified American Heart Association instructor. In this role, she has certified staff, coaches, students, and daycare personnel in-house.
  • She oversees the district's Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) and ensures her team has the necesssary medical supplies for emergencies and proper training.
  • She wrote or participated in writing numerous grants for the manikins, AEDs, other training materials, and programs to improve staff and student wellness.

In August 2020, she graduated with highest honors from Ferris State University (FSU) with a master's degree in Nursing (MSN), focusing on nursing education. In February 2021, she received her Professional School Nurse Certificate from the Michigan State Board of Education.

This past May, the Michigan Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery was issued by the Student Recovery Advisory Council and Governor Whitmer. This comprehensive plan meets all students' academic, social, emotional, and physical needs. The ability of school nurses to identify, monitor, and manage illness, especially in chronic conditions, was highlighted.

Cass City Public Schools is already doing many of the leverage actions mentioned. The district provides a school nurse for almost 1000 students through a partnership with Hills and Dales General Hospital. This number is greater than the 1:750 recommended by the National Association of School Nurses. This past year, Ms. Laponsie collaborated with Saginaw Valley State University to use her district for clinical sites. As part of this partnership, registered nursing students worked onsite and were introduced to the school nursing specialty to help meet the critical clinical site and school nurse shortage.

During her preceptorship at FSU, Ms. Laponsie completed an asthma project, where she collaborated with local primary care physicians for comprehensive asthma care focused on the student and family. As the Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community model becomes more prevalent; the need to meet the physical needs of students with chronic health conditions, along with the need for collaboration with other community organizations, become more apparent. The school nurse is the ideal professional to fill this role. 

"Kathy is the perfect fit for our district, and she works very hard every day to go above and beyond for our students," said Zimba.  "Cass City Public Schools wants to recognize Kathy for her outstanding work last year!" 

Comments (2)

Paula LeValley Posted 1 months ago

I am a diabetic and also teach 1st grade. Kathy doesn't just treat student,, she takes care of the staff, too. One day I was very ill. I went home. By the way , she drove me home. Then later on she came to my home to check on me and ended up taking me to the EDR. We are so lucky to have her. Thank you Kathy!

Amanda Mester Posted 1 months ago

Well deserved!! This makes me smile. Happy for you my friend!!!