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Spirit Lake educator named Idaho Teacher of the Year for commitment to mental health

Stacie Lawler, who teaches health and P.E. at Lakeland Junior High School, helped launch a community coalition to talk about suicide.
Credit: Gov. Brad Little
Idaho's 2020 Teacher of the Year

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said Lawler taught at Lakeland Junior High School in Rathdrum. She teaches physical education at Timberlake Junior High School in Spirit Lake.

SPIRIT LAKE, Idaho  – A health and physical education teacher at Timerlake Junior High School in Spirit Lake was recognized as Idaho’s 2020 Teacher of the Year on Thursday morning.

Stacie Lawler was selected from six finalists by a blue ribbon panel. She will serve as a spokesperson and representative for Idaho educators and travel to Washington, D.C. as the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.

“A great teacher focuses on the whole child, and Stacie Lawler is a phenomenal teacher,” Idaho Superintendent Sherri Ybarra said. “Her students don’t just learn the subject matter, they learn about themselves, gaining the insight, confidence and resilience they’ll need to overcome obstacles and succeed in school and beyond.”

Lawler says her key mission and message as Teacher of the Year will be to combat the stigma surrounding mental health.

“I believe a major issue in public education today is educators’ lack of knowledge about mental health,” she said in her application. “It’s a frightening position to be in when you are ill-equipped to deal with a crisis.”

“We must teach our children that it is OK to talk about not being OK,” she added. “What if we had a child tell us they were thinking of killing themselves and we knew what to do about it?”

Lawler has taught in the Lakeland Joint School District for 11 years, helping to design a new curriculum for physical education at several schools within the district.

Last year, Lawler was named Teacher of the Year for the Lakeland Joint School District, and she previously earned that title at Twin Lakes Elementary and twice at Timberlake Junior High.

Lawler helped launch a community coalition to talk about suicide and helped establish an education program that brought in outside experts to teach employees how to deal with difficult situations.

She also co-wrote an application that brought grant money to Timberlake training students to use, in her words, “the power of peer social networks to change the school culture and ultimately prevent suicide.”

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Lawler talked to students about her personal experience with family members’ mental health struggles, saying it opened a valuable dialogue. Since then, she has been asked to share her experiences with coworkers, parents and others.

Lawler takes over the Teacher of the Year title from 2019 winner Marc Beitia, an American Falls teacher who attended the Sept. 26 announcement to congratulate his successor.

Lakeland Joint School District Superintendent Becky Meyer nominated Lawler for the honor, noting “her overarching belief in unconditional kindness toward all human beings.”

“Her ability to engage and harness the creative energy of students is beyond brilliant,” Meyer said. “Students love to be involved with Stacie’s programs – she motivates students to think beyond their adolescent self and give back.”

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