SPIRIT LAKE, Idaho -- Before being named Idaho's teacher of the year, Stacie Lawler made a commitment to mental health clear.

She coaches and teaches PE and health at Timberlake Junior High in Spirit Lake. Mottos and quotes on her classroom wall allude to that mental health commitment. 

For Lawler, it's personal. Her son began having suicidal thoughts when we went off to college.

"As a parent, I felt helpless,” she said.

What then started as a mother's quest to improve his mental health trickled down to her school. Since then, Lawler has started a community coalition that talks about suicide.

She also helped establish an education program that brings in mental health experts.

"For me as a health teacher, as a mental health person, I think that is the most important thing. We have to be OK talking about the things that are wrong with us,” Lawler said.

Idaho's governor Brad Little and the state's superintendent surprised Lawler with the award yesterday at Timberlake. She was selected out of six finalists, and will now serve as a state spokesperson at a national conference.

But it's back in Spirit Lake where her real passion lies. A matter of getting kids on the cross-country team healthy both physically and mentally.

"I feel very blessed to be able to represent the state of Idaho and also very passionate about mental health issues,” Lawler said.

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