LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kayla McKinney

Position: PK-12 Health Services Director / High School Nurse
School: Stillman Valley High School
School District: Meridian Community Unit School District 223
City, State: Stillman Valley, IL

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Kayla McKinney was nominated by her colleague, Joe Mullikin.

"The COVID-19 pandemic brought forth challenges for schools that were unimaginable just months before. While this pandemic has been difficult on every person and for every school, at each turn, I am reminded how lucky Meridian CUSD 223 is to have Kayla McKinney as our Health Services Director. As I see our peer districts continuing to load work on to principals and teachers, Kayla and her team appear to relieve as much of this burden as possible and to make leading through the pandemic manageable," said Mullikin.

Ms. McKinney's not only incredibly proficient at the technical and leadership aspects of her job, but she is also remarkably kind. As most people in schools acutely understand, the topics of positive tests, quarantines, and masks can be a challenge for the community. Somehow, Ms. McKinney's unique gifts of believing deeply in the process, combined with her unwavering compassion and kindness, have helped her repeatedly put her district in a position to be as successful as possible and to maintain positive relationships with those in the community. 

Ms. McKinney has worked to create an incredible district-level department. She continues to work as a caring, loving, and attentive nurse at Stillman Valley High School.

"I have watched her build relationships and create a safe space for students to come to with concerns. Throughout the pandemic, it has been incredible to watch Kayla work as an exceptional nurse, support the nurses and nurse aides throughout the district, and help the district navigate the craziness that has been COVID-19," said Mullikin.



Comments (30)


Karen Posted 6 months ago

Kayla gives 100% every day, always staying positive and caring. "Kind" is a perfect description for her, and she stays kind while navigating through even the last two very stressful years of the pandemic. She deserves this award! Good luck Kayla!

Jill Davis Posted 7 months ago

Kayla has been my rock. As an adminstrator in the district, I often reach out to Kayla when I am frustrated or confused by the ever changing covid mandates. Kayla is solid because she always answers my call or answers my email quickly. She goes above and beyond to uplift me even when she is as frustrated as I am. Her sense of humor and spirit of kindness has helped carry our entire district through this pandemic. But even without covid, Kayla has always been a leader. I have watched her interact with her colleagues as the ultimate professional who is always pushing her department and the district forward.

Tammy Weir Posted 7 months ago

She has a servant heart and does her job with a smile and grace. Her concern for her colleagues, our students and their families is evident in everything she does. We are truly blessed to have her. Congrats Kayla

Julie Weber Posted 7 months ago

Kayla is an extraordinary asset to our district, especially under the incredible stress and challenges she has confronted as our district's Nurse Administrator. But - one would never know it! She is always, and I truly mean always, positive, caring, patient, giving, calm, and confident. I see Kayla daily, and not once have I heard her complain about the ever-changing pandemic mandates and the demands placed upon her and her department. She not only leads nurses, but she directly serves the staff and students, and teaches a medical terminology course. At a time when our district community is under great distress and opposition, Kayla has created a competent, consistent, ethical, and caring medical program to allow a safe in-school learning environment for all... with smiles and a positive attitude. We are fortunate to have Kayla leading the way!

Elizabeth Faxon Posted 7 months ago

As a teacher and a mom, Kayla always treated any questions, concerns, or issues as though they were her only ones. She is always smiling and positive. As with many staff in the health field, she has had a lot to navigate through and I'm sure has had her share of frustrations. She remains on top of it and has never lets her frustrations show. We are lucky to have her.

Michelle Lassard Posted 7 months ago

Kayla's caring nature, compassion, and strong work ethic have contributed in every possible positive way to our districts functionality, especially during the last few years that have dealt exceptional circumstances. She is detail orientated, professonal and driven to provide the best care to our encompasing district body. I am excited to see that she is being recognized for her contributions, and a well deserved nomination. Good Luck Kayla!

Elaine Nicholson Posted 7 months ago

What a well deserved honor for Kayla! The amount of support that Kayla gives our students, staff and community is incredible! She is a calming force during ever-changing and uncertain situations. Kayla is a strong and dependable leader for her department and co-workers as well as an honest and hardworking teammate. Our district is fortunate to have Kayla!

Alana Bergeson Posted 7 months ago

Kayla always demonstrates a positive attitude, despite the most challenging situation in school health history. Not only does she tirelessly test students to stay in class, keep up with current guidelines and mandates, and keep track of quarantine times, she does it with a smile on her face. She is one of the kindest people I know, and I can't imagine navigating this pandemic in a public school situation without someone as genuinely kind and caring as Kayla.

Nancy Dornon Posted 7 months ago

Kayla has stood up to adversity in her personal life and always maintained a positive attitude. She treats others with empathy and compassion. She is a wonderful mother and one of the "best of friends" a person could have.

Brooke Posted 7 months ago

Kayla works so hard for Meridian #223. We are thankful for her responsiveness and kindness.

Debbie Sasse Posted 7 months ago

Before the pandemic, Kayla coordinated health events for the district’s families and I was honored to be one of the speakers. During the event, I saw how much she cared about the students and their families. The district is very fortunate to have such a compassionate and caring staff member.

Trisha Mckendry Posted 7 months ago

Kayla, you deserve this! You are the hardest working, most caring, kind, and generous school nurse. How you handle the day to day since this pandemic blows me away. Then you teach on top of everything else. We are so fortunate to have you at SVHS!!

Janet Hall Posted 7 months ago

As a teacher in the district and also a parent of two children in this school district, Kayla is professional, compassionate, and easy to talk with. She is a top-notch!!

Peggy bergmark Posted 7 months ago

Kayla is so sweet and a good friend and a great mom but most she works very hard

Diane Koenig Posted 7 months ago

Kayla works tirelessly to make sure she communicates the most current information to help use keep a safe learning environment. So thankful she is in our district!

Karen Posted 7 months ago

Always there, always doing a great job, and so dedicated! ??

Kay McNeal Posted 7 months ago

Kayla is a wonder addition to the Meridian School District. The kids trust her when they take their problems to her, she helps them when they are sick and when they just need someone to talk about a problem they are having. She talks to them and helps them see that there is a solution. She has worked day and night since the Covid pandemic has started.

Jacque Buchanan Posted 7 months ago

As a teacher and a mom, Kayla has helped me navigate all the changes and unknowns of teaching during this time. She is always sharing information and keeping us up to date on procedures. She has helped me as a mom many times when I ask her for help. Our district is so lucky to have her leading our health care workers! They are all amazing and kind due to her leadership!

Tara Larson Posted 7 months ago

Kayla treats every person with extraordinary kindness while she does her job thoroughly and follows protocol. She takes time to break down then complex, ever-changing COVID guidance and sends staff and district families simplified explanations of any changes or updates. She is amazing and I’m not sure we could have gotten through this without her.

Kelly Price Posted 7 months ago

Kayla is one of the most kind, caring, compassionate, and hard working people at the Meridian School District. Her confidence and skill has made an already daunting situation more bearable for everyone involved. The area is extremely lucky to have Kayla providing her support and wisdom.

Teresa Eden Posted 7 months ago

Kayla is an amazing human. In a world that has been ever changing, her demeanor, knowledge, and guidance has been a gift to me and the families in our community as each of us have had to navigate through stressful moments of uncertainty. She is prompt and thorough in her responses to questions and concerns with grace.

Deana Simpson Posted 7 months ago

Kayla's demeanor and extension of kindness and compassion throughout what every district has gone through has been exceptional. Her guidance, patience, and leadership navigating through COVID for our district and others has been nothing short of a blessing for us. Kayla has, by guiding her team and leading by example, provided safety and security for adults and children in our district. She has shared her strength with all of us!

Kathy Bybee Posted 7 months ago

What an honor Kayla! Congrats, Kathy Bybee

Libby Ogren Posted 7 months ago

As a former colleague of Kayla’s, I can attest that she is every bit the leader and professional that Meridian CUSD 223 deserves and needs. Her kindness and grace during difficult situations, including the pandemic and others, are a testament to her skilled abilities as a nurse and leader. She deserves this nomination.

Jessie Coffey Posted 7 months ago

Kayla has done an incredible job supporting the students, staff and parents during this sometimes confusing pandemic. The ever-changing IDPH rules for students have been so difficult to keep up with, but Kayla patiently makes sure every question is answered and concern is addressed. I’m so grateful our school district is blessed with her!

Andrea Watts Posted 7 months ago

Yay! Love that Kayla McKinney has been nominated for this honor. Well deserved. ?? very grateful she is apart of our school. Thank you for ALL that you do. ??

Dana Brooks Posted 7 months ago

Kayla is not only efficient in her job, but she is an "uplifter." She takes their position to the next level by adding elements of fun and humor to a situation that can be very tough. She has offered fun giveaways as motivation for reaching fitness goals and worked in partnership with community health and fitness organizations to encourage healthy lifestyles. She has brought our entire district to a new level on the wellness scale.

Elba Gallegos Posted 7 months ago

Congratulations!! Thank you for all you do! People like you is needed in this world!

Dr. PJ Caposey Posted 7 months ago

Kayla has been an incredible asset to our district throughout the Pandemic leading our Health Services team. Moreover, Kayla has been an incredible force in supporting public health in her work as a leader in our county and region. Her documents, how-to guides, and FAQs have been "stolen" and used in many organizations throughout the region as we continue to attempt to move forward together.

Scott S Rempfer Posted 7 months ago

What really stands out about Kayla is the level of professionalism she displays. We all know these past few years have been challenging, but she takes everything in stride, with a super positive attitude, and moves forward. I can't start to imagine all the ways her career demands have changed and multiplied over these years, but she is a driving force for good. I am so appreciative of her work and her attitude.