Newport-Mesa Unified School District nurse Natalie Gerdes has been honored by the Orange County School Nurses Organization as its 2018 School Nurse of the Year.
The title is awarded to a nurse who is nominated from among the association's 150 members and ultimately chosen by its board of directors for excellence, professional growth and service to his or her school district.
"I know that almost all nurses in this room are unsung heroes and equally deserving of this award," Gerdes said during a luncheon last week at Mile Square Golf Course in Fountain Valley.
Gerdes, a nurse for 42 years, has been with Newport-Mesa since 2003. She is currently assigned to Newport, College Park and Pomona elementary schools. She also has spearheaded early childhood intervention programs, said Annette Franco, spokeswoman for the school district.
Gerdes encouraged veteran school nurses to support those who will replace them in coming years.
"If you really value nursing, take that time to mentor," she said.
Mariners Elementary School nurse Jeri Ann Encino said she's grateful for Gerdes' guidance.
"She's always pushed me to do something new and try something new and not be scared of going out there," Encino said.
DANIEL LANGHORNE is a contributor to Times Community News.