County school health chief wins award
Sharyn Turner sneaks medicine for seven-year-olds into yogurt, certifies school nurses in helping diabetic children and serves colleagues barbecued tofu.
Turner, countywide P.E./health coordinator for the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools office, was named last month one of 27 “Healthy School Heroes” by Action for Healthy Kids, a non-profit organization.
Turner, a former flight nurse for the United States Air Force who is now school nurse for Seven Hills School, shares the national spotlight with a state senator, an American Cancer Society vice president and a third grade teacher who makes sure her students eat a full, healthy lunch.
Thirty organizations combed their nationwide networks to come up with thousands of nominees, said Elizabeth Chandler, spokeswoman for Action for Healthy Kids, in Washington, D.C.
“They had to come up with that one person out of thousands,” Chandler said about the panel that selected the “healthy school heroes.”
Sheila Holcomb, school nurse for the Folsom-Cordoba School District and community health instructor for Sac State’s nursing program, was one of two people who nominated Turner because she practices what she preaches, Holcomb said.
At a two-week summer institute to teach teachers, school administrators and school nurses about nutrition and health, Turner “went shopping every day and made up healthy snacks to show everyone.”
“But every day she would do that,” Holcomb said. “And then we got to eat them.”
Turner once hosted a barbecue at her house for health educators as well – only the barbecue was tofu, Holcomb recalled.
“it was like ‘Eeew,'” Holcomb said about the prospect of barbecued tofu. “But with the sauce, it was good!”
“She really covered the gamut of information on obesity, carb counting, on antioxidants so that teachers who went back to their schools and work with kids had this wealth of new information,” Holcomb said about Turner’s work at the summer institute.
Turner also talked about the value of nutrition bars and sports drinks, Holcomb said.
“She disseminated that information throughout Northern California,” Holcomb said about Turner’s influence.
Turner, who is probably cringing at reading such praise of her work, preferred to talk about the work school nurses do and how important it is to children.
“A lot of people don’t understand that P.E. means developing physical and social skills: You’re no longer graded on just putting on your uniform,” Turner said.
Health education now means teaching kids to resist peer pressure to smoke, drink and engage in early sexual activity, she said. School nurses also work to set up lifelong habits for fitness, she noted.
For one teaching assignment, Turner recruited the county office of education’s art education coordinator Paul Harrar to rip out alcohol and cigarette ads out of magazines to show how the advertisers hope to rope in youngsters to bad habits, she said.
She can also be crafty about doing her job. During a recent meningitis scare in Nevada County, she had to figure out how to get medicine down the throats of reluctant students. She hid it in the aforementioned yogurt.
Turner plans to donate her $1,000 award to create a “nutrition station” at the Imaginarium where kids will be able to handle globs of fat.
The school nurse of 30 years also envisions a heart rate component in the nutrition station.
Holcomb described Turner as “wonderful role model for school nurse for having wellness – not illness – as the focus.”
The award to Turner is “well deserved, well deserved,” Holcomb said.
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