Provided by Sue Hanly
Twenty-two years of guiding students to better health and coaching, nurse Sue Hanly is retiring from WPS.
Hanly, the current nurse at Stony Brook Middle School, has worked as a visiting nurse, a coach for Girls on the Run, and has been a member of both the Board of Health and the COVID-19 committee during the pandemic.
Throughout her time she has discovered that the most important piece of Hanly’s job to her is mental health.
“I have been very passionate about mental health and have spoken vocally about increased support for students and staff,” Hanly said.
According to Hanly, education on mental health and its effects on people is needed in the school system. Hanly has been advocating for mental health reform over her years and managed to start support groups and specific courses. She brought the SOS program, an educational class about depression and mental illness, to the middle schools 12 years ago.
Hanly put forward more ideas to the surface and teamed up with Lisa Downey, a health teacher at the middle school, to teach about mental health issues and specific issues in the grades.
“[I wanted] to talk about stress and stress management to sixth-graders, dangers of vaping to seventh graders and understanding gender for eighth-graders,” Hanly said.
Outside of this, she has students coming into her clinic for health issues but also stresses alongside mental health. She speaks to them about mindfulness and explains how they can handle mental health.
With all of her work, she has gained many connections throughout all the schools. Her four children have been in the system since her oldest was in second grade.
“We are so blessed to have an amazing school system. I am so blessed to get to know so many incredible educators, administrators, nurses, guidance counselors, secretaries, and other support staff, and have the same schedule as my children, which makes balancing a family and career manageable,” Hanly said
Throughout the years that she has worked in the school system, she has gained multiple close friendships with her fellow staff members. Hanly says she will sincerely miss her fellow nurses, teachers, administration, and students. These people have impacted Hanly’s life in such a way that she hopes she will keep in contact with them all.
Students that visited and spoke with her, students she has worked with within the middle school, and any students she has helped will always be a part of her mind. She hopes to have helped many students through their challenges.
“The middle school years can be challenging for so many students. Seeing them excel and flourish in high school has been such a gift,” Hanly said.
As the pandemic consumes life in the schools, nurses in the districts have fought for a safe return and for mental health to be addressed. Hanly has been a part of the COVID-19 committee to advocate for this, as she only wants everyone to be safe.
“The stress of the pandemic is not why I’m leaving but rather preserving my own self-worth” Hanly said.
With all the uncertainty and all the debates deciding what is best, she believes it has gone out of her range. The pandemic itself brought many questions to the surface and Hanly has fought for mental health through it all. As well as being a nurse at the middle school, watching the positive cases rise caused much more stress on her. She decided it was best for her to retire, after all the stress that was also put on her as a nurse. She wishes Westford Schools the safest journey throughout the rest of the pandemic and she hopes her ideas have helped everyone.
“Anything I have ever advocated for as a school nurse has never been about me: It has always been what I believe is in the best interest of children and their families,” Hanly said.
After the years she spent at Westford, her next plans are to focus her life on mental health education and her family. Hanly believes that there is a plan set for her and she is hoping to continue on her journey.
“I will forever be grateful to the Westford Public School system for providing my children with an exemplary education and for giving me the opportunity to work with so many amazing individuals,” Hanly said. “I have enjoyed the journey.”