When Mary Ries was 5 years old, she knew she wanted to be a nurse. Today she has the pleasure to serve children of the same age, as a nurse in the Maquoketa Valley School District.

Ries was recently named a 2019 honoree for 100 Great Iowa Nurses, a program designed to recognize great nurses in Iowa. She was selected from a pool of over 500 individuals, who were all nominated by their colleagues, patients, doctors, friends and family members. Final nominees were chosen by a panel of reviewers including nursing professionals and previous honorees.

“These exemplary nurses are selected based on their concern for humanity, their contribution to the community and to the nursing profession, their leadership and mentoring,” wrote Cassie Raasch, a public relations coordinator for the University of Iowa College of Nursing.

“Nurse Mary,” as she is affectionately known around the Maquoketa Valley School District, has a long background in the nursing field. Her nearly 34 years in the field have taken her to a number of positions around Iowa. She has worked in a medical unit, surgical unit, ICU, CCU and delivery unit.

Her passion for nursing began at the age of 5. “I had two cousins and two aunts that were nurses and they were excellent role models,” stated Ries. “I have always wanted to help people and felt this was an excellent way to do it.”

Ries decided to become the school nurse for the Maquoketa Valley district to be on a regular schedule when her children started school. This year is her 23rd year in the district.

In addition to her regular duties as a school nurse, Ries stays busy with a variety of other responsibilities. She directs an early morning fitness class that is open to the public in the school fitness room. Ries also oversees staff wellness programming and teaches CPR. She holds a number of responsibilities as the advisor for Teens Eliminating Lies, a student organization in the district. On top of all of this, Ries finds time to send a daily email to staff in the district with an inspiring quote, a suggestion for self-care and a positive affirmation.

Ries believes the reason why she was chosen for the honor is because she genuinely cares and loves what she does.

Members of the school district had much more to say about what makes their humble school nurse truly great.

“Being a school nurse is challenging enough, but Nurse Mary also has to juggle school buildings located in three different communities,” said Ann Norton, the principal at Johnston Elementary. “Regardless of where she is located on any given day, she stays in touch, up-to-speed, and accessible. She is a person that all students and staff know cares about them and can be counted on to be there for support and assistance whenever we need her.”

“Mary is always re-educating herself to keep up to date and then disseminates that information for the best interest of the district,” said Donna Kunde, a member of the school board.

“Her dedication and commitment to the students of our district is invaluable, and she is very deserving of this recognition,” said Troy Osterhaus, the principal at Maquoketa Valley High School.

Ries says her favorite part of being a school nurse is working with students “from their first days of school until their last. It is rewarding to watch them learn and grow into productive adults.”

Even the newest youngest Wildcats are quick to show their appreciation for “Nurse Mary.” Kindergarten students at Earlville Elementary said Nurse Mary is great because, aside from healing their ailments, she is kind, a good helper, and she follows the Wildcat Way.

“Mary Ries is not only a great nurse,” says Pat Sabers, secretary for Earlville Elementary, “she cares about people and their daily struggles and accomplishments. She truly is special!”

For her accomplishment, Ries will attend a celebration in Des Moines in May. She plans to attend with her husband, Mark, her son Adam and his wife, Megan, her daughter, Emily, her son, Emerson, and his wife, Nicole. She is excited to spend time with them as an early Mother’s Day gift and to celebrate her devotion to her profession.

“I am very humbled to know that someone saw something in me that made them take the time to nominate me for this tremendous honor,” said Ries. “I hope that I live up to what they see in me. I am truly blessed by my own family and my Maquoketa Valley family.”