LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Debra Murphy

Position: School Nurse
School: Woodin Elementary School
School District: Northshore School District
City, State: Bothell, WA

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Deb Murphy received multiple nominations from her students and colleagues. The following profile is a summary of her work.

A school is like an organism.  It has the brains organizing the environment (school administrators), hands (the teachers who are working with the students), and the heart that helps the staff remember that at the end of the day, they’re not just working with students' brains, but with whole, precious children. The heart of Woodin Elementary School is none other than its school nurse, Ms. Murphy.

Ms. Murphy, also known as Nurse Deb, has been an integral part of the Northshore community for over 20 years. She is known and adored by each and every one of the 500 students at her school, as well as their families. She’s the one who kindly, but matter-of-factly, patches all the bumps and bruises up from playground mishaps. Nurse Deb is the one who students stop by to see in the morning because she makes their day start off so great with warm words and humor. She is the one who, when students are completely overwhelmed by day-to-day life, provides a strong dose of TLC so that they can move forward.  

“Deb's room is students’ favorite place to go. We often joke about students finding ailments just to go see her,” said Emily Spencer, a colleague. “Her warm smile and welcoming attitude is the heart of our school. She has such a sweet nature with students and always finds ways to make them smile and brighten their day.”

Nurse Deb sees the whole child, not just the child at school. She is fiercely protective of all children and their rights in terms of gender and ethnicity. When parents know they need more for their child and are at their wits end, Nurse Deb is who they reach out to.  She calms their worries, thoughtfully gets them resources, and stays by their side every step of the journey. 

“It wasn't until I was in my tenth year of knowing Nurse Deb that I had an epiphany.  I was one of ‘her kids,’ too,” said Kristin Merritt, a colleague. “As a fifth grade teacher at the school, I was constantly checking in with her about various students. She would always take the time to ask me how I was doing, and not just as a courtesy question. She would always listen to my response, and whatever I was struggling with, as if it was one of the most important things of her day.  Anytime I had major health concerns, I knew, like all teachers at our school, that Nurse Deb would be there by our side with a calming presence, warm humor, and gentle words of advice. When I fell and fractured my ankle on almost the last day of school, she came up with a wheelchair and joked with me - as I held back tears - about my questionable choice to stand on a chair to put a staple in a bulletin board...As always, she brings calm to chaos.”

Woodin Elementary is a Title 1 school, and Nurse Deb goes above and beyond to connect families to community resources. She houses clothing for students who need coats or other warm clothes on cold days. She runs drives to bring in clothing, backpacks, and school supplies.

Fifteen years ago, Nurse Deb started her school’s food bank, Families Helping Families, which she runs to this day. She, along with some volunteers, work tirelessly to stock the shelves, put together bags of food for students to take home, and support families with gifts during the holidays. She has continued this taxing work through the pandemic, even when the staff were teaching and learning remotely. Woodin Elementary is a safe, healthy place because of her efforts.

Nurse Deb also cares about our world and environment. She loves to hike and bike, and she lives a green lifestyle.

“She is the most amazing nurse, and I would love to see her recognized for her great work,” said Woodin Elementary School principal Dawn Bowers.

“She is about to retire this year from her amazing and rewarding career. We all cannot imagine how our school will be without her,” said Crystal Affolter, a colleague.

Comments (1)

Kassie Schwartz Posted 10 months ago

I can't think of a more deserving person! Nurse Deb has given so much, it's time she gets to be on the receiving end and feel celebrated by her community!