The honor is nice, but Idaho’s Teacher of the Year for 2023 hopes to use it to improve conditions for her colleagues, their students and families.
In other words, Karen Lauritzen will be continuing the work she’s been doing for two decades, the last as a third-grade teacher in Post Falls.
“My hope is to get the schools that students and teachers deserve,” said Lauritzen, who teaches at Treaty Rock Elementary School.
“What that means for me is that we have well-funded schools – first with buildings that any adult would want to work in and any student is comfortable in,” Lauritzen said.
That commitment was tested last year, when the Post Falls School District failed in its first attempt to pass an operating levy.
“It was a full-time job to pass that levy,” said Lauritzen, a founding member of the Citizens for Post Falls Schools.
Lauritzen is also vice president of the local teachers’ union in fast-growing Post Falls, where newcomers are often surprised at the relatively low funding for public schools.
“A lot of people don’t understand how schools are funded,” Lauritzen said. “That’s something that I’m really passionate about advocating for, and I’ve spoken to legislators about that issue.”
That passion was a factor in her decision to apply for the teacher of the year competition.
In her application, Lauritzen wrote: “I hope that as Idaho Teacher of the Year, I will be able to be an ambassador between teachers, parents and our communities. Our communities, state and nation would benefit from relationship building that starts in our humble public school classrooms. I would be honored to lead the way!”
One of 58 applicants, Lauritzen was selected from a list of 13 finalists. She will serve as a spokesperson and representative for Idaho educators, and will be the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.
On the big day, Sept. 29, Lauritzen was surprised by a large assembly at the school, which also included her family and Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra.
“This is one of the best days of my life, because I get to celebrate it with all of these people that I adore and all of the teachers I appreciate so much, and my family, thank you so much,” Lauritzen said. “I love my job.”
“Karen has found creative and effective ways to help students continue classroom conversations at home while connecting with their families on a daily basis,” the state superintendent said in a statement.
Her principal, Katrina Kramer, called Lauritzen a “rock star” who had helped build the relationship between the school and its families and students.
A teacher for 20 years, Lauritzen said she was “stunned” by the honor. “But as teachers, every day we come to school and we’re excited to share the love of learning.”
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