During a surprise ceremony Thursday, Gov. Brad Little and schools chief Sherri Ybarra announced Timberlake Junior High Teacher Stacie Lawler will serve as Idaho’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.
Lawler, an 11-year veteran of North Idaho’s Lakeland district who teaches physical education and health, was selected by a blue ribbon panel from a pool of six finalists, the State Department of Education said in a press release.
As part of the honor, Lawler will serve as Idaho’s nominee for National Teacher of the year, travel to the White House in Washington, D.C., and serve as an ambassador for educators throughout the state.
Previous Idaho state teachers of the year regularly testified before the Idaho Legislature, while 2019 Teacher of the Year Marc Beitia serves as a member of Little’s “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future,” K-12 education task force.
Lawler said she would use her platform to focus on mental health awareness and students’ social and emotional well-being.
“I believe a major issue in public education today is educators’ lack of knowledge about mental health,” Lawler wrote 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,” Lawler continued. “What if we had a child tell us they were thinking of killing themselves and we knew what to do about it?”
Lakeland Superintendent Becky Meyer nominated Lawler for the award. Officials credited Lawler with designing and delivering new K-6 P.E. curriculum at Twin Lakes Elementary, and a grade 7-8 curriculum at Timberlake Junior High. Lawler also coaches cross country and track, helps coach cheerleading and helped the district set up a Life Awareness Relay, Timberlake Principal Chris McDougall wrote in a letter of recommendation for Lawler.
Last year, Lawler was the Lakeland district’s teacher of the year; she had been named a building-level teacher of the year at least three other times, the SDE said. Before her time in Lakeland, Lawler also taught in Vallivue and Wilder.
“Her ability to engage and harness the creative energy of students is beyond brilliant,” Meyer said in a written statement. “Students love to be involved with Stacie’s programs – she motivates students to think beyond their adolescent self and give back.”
Little and Ybarra coordinated the surprise announcement at Lakeland Junior High while they were in Rathdrum to participate in Little’s Capital for a Day program.
“Our students simply cannot succeed without dedicated teachers, and Stacie Lawler is an outstanding teacher who demonstrates the positive impact a teacher can have on the lives of a student and their family members,” Little said in a written statement. “It is an honor to recognize Stacie for the difference she has made in thousands of lives.”