One of the loudest ovations during Monday’s State of the State address wasn’t for Gov. Brad Little.
It was for Timberlake Junior High teacher Stacie Lawler, who brought lawmakers to their feet.
About 20 minutes into the speech, Little asked the Legislature to help him congratulate Lawler, who schools chief Sherri Ybarra and he named Idaho Teacher of the Year during a surprise ceremony in September.
Little paused his speech, raised his left hand and pointed toward the seating gallery above the House chambers.
“Stacie, stand up,” Little said, beaming.
Lawler stood, and so did nearly everyone else under the Statehouse rotunda.
For a full 21 seconds, legislators honored Lawler with a standing ovation.
Check the tape.
“What a crazy day for me, but it was such an honor,” Lawler said.
Although he joked that Lawler may have stolen some of his spotlight, Little said it was important to highlight Lawler on such a big stage.
Lawler’s key mission as Teacher of the Year, she said, is combating the stigma around mental health.
“I believe a major issue in public education today is educators’ lack of knowledge about mental health,” Lawler wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. “It’s a frightening position to be in when you are ill-equipped to deal with a crisis.”
One of the five recommendations Little’s “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force issued in November was supporting social-emotional learning and students who face mental health or trauma issues.
Little decided to prioritize the mental health recommendation during his State of the State address by asking the Legislature to invest $1 million in professional development and additional resources to support students.
Lawler is the perfect example of someone already prioritizing the issue, he said.
“She goes beyond teaching subject matter and helps her students learn the skills they need to be successful in life, not just school,” Little said during the State of the State.
After the speech, Lawler said she is pleased Little is prioritizing mental health.
“I am very excited about Gov. Little’s plans for social emotional health,” Lawler said. “It’s such an important issue for me personally and professionally that listening to his speech yesterday was inspiring to say the least. I believe we can get some amazing things done to help our students. I am truly looking forward to this year and I hope to be able to make some baby steps towards getting our communities to understand that it’s OK to not be OK.”
This isn’t likely to be Lawler’s last appearance at the Statehouse. Although Lawler is the first Teacher of the Year in recent memory to be invited to and featured in the State of the State, Idaho’s top teacher routinely meets with legislators and speaks before the education committees.
2019 Teacher of the Year Marc Beitia served as a member of the “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force.