Transforming student lives through school nursing

Dallas ISD is joining a 50-year celebration on May 10 that recognizes school nurses and promotes a better understanding of the role they play in education—National School Nurse Day.

Zelda Saxton has been a school nurse at Obadiah Knight Elementary School for the past 14 years, and she said she has loved every moment of it. She previously worked in oncology and hematology units with a focus on cancer patients, so she said it wasn’t until she came to Dallas ISD that she fully understood the importance of supporting education.

She recalls working with a student who had dyslexia and was struggling with reading, so when testing came around, he told Saxton that he was going to fail. He did not because he received the academic, physical, and mental support he needed from team members at Obadiah Knight and was commended in reading. 

“As soon as he got the notification that he did well, he told his fifth-grade teacher, ‘I have to go talk to Nurse Saxton right now,’” Saxton said. “It brings tears to my eyes because I heard him running down the hall. He ran into the clinic and said, ‘Guess what? I passed.’ And I just broke down and cried. That was amazing.”

Saxton wears many hats to ensure her students remain safe and healthy. She said she works on the frontlines of mental health, identifying potential concerns and referring students to the school counselor as needed. At the same time, Saxton keeps health records and works with families to get their students the care they need as soon as possible.

“Nurse Saxton is a wonderful mentor to our students, team members, and visiting nurses as well,” said Principal Blanca E. Rojo. “Many of our students see her as a second counselor that they can lean on in times of trouble. She also spreads her TLC when we are feeling under the weather. We are very fortunate to work with a school nurse who goes above and beyond the call of duty and who is resourceful, helpful, and kind.”

Obadiah Knight also has a partnership with Children’s Health that enables students to have telehealth visits with medical providers without leaving campus, which Saxton supports by contacting families and registering their students for the program. 

“It’s a really great program for us,” Saxton said. “If our students are cared for on campus and at home, then we know there’s a higher potential for them to come to school every day and have a really good attendance record. And while they’re sitting in class, they’re going to learn something, and it’s going to stick.”

Saxton said she sees an average of about 40 students a week with everything from illnesses to broken bones, but she does not stop transforming student lives when the work day ends. She tutors students after school, attends basketball games, serves as the soccer team manager, and more, and she said it’s all because of her love for her students.

“I love school nursing, and I love working with kids,” Saxton said. “I could arrive in a bad mood, and just seeing these students gives me a high every day. You can make school nursing anything you want it to be, and I want it to encompass as much as I can and keep my students healthy, mentally and physically. When we do that, our kids are going to do their best.” 

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