While many adults balk at the idea of talking to the youth about drugs and sex, Carson Middle School health teacher Lisa Schuette welcomes the opportunity.
“It’s not difficult at all,” she said. “It’s so important. Knowledge is power.
“We protect innocence by being honest about choices.”
Schuette’s efforts were recognized this week as she was named the Carson City School District’s Educator of the Year. She was selected from among teachers chosen at every school throughout the district.
“I am so grateful and humbled,” she said after it was announced at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “I can’t believe I’m being awarded this. All of us have earned this. We all work together.”
A former police officer and juvenile probation officer, Schuette moved into education 14 years ago to help students before they got into trouble.
“It was the perfect segue,” she said. “I had high school and middle school kids on probation for drugs and property crimes. Some of them were pregnant. All of that is about decision-making and your value system. When are you willing to put your success first, over peer pressure, over everything else? My background made this job such a natural fit.”
Helping students identify their own value system, based on what they’ve learned at home, better prepares them for life inside and outside the classroom, she said.
“Health applies to everything,” Schuette said. “A good health class build the foundation for good decision-making. If a student has an STD, is pregnant or even going through a break-up, you’re not going to be able to focus on academics.”
The key, she said, is to be honest with students. People use drugs for a reason, she tells them.
“It’s about achieving that feeling people are after,” she said. “But then we talk about over time what starts happening. The preoccupied user does start putting drugs before everything else in their lives. I’ve been on the other side. I’ve made those arrests.”
Schuette hopes her honesty will keeps kids from experimenting on their own.
“Quite frankly, I hope a lot of these drug lessons don’t apply to their lives,” she said. “Hopefully they’re not going to be in a position where they’re experimenting. But if they are, I want them to have the tools necessary. I want them calling mom at 2 a.m. for a ride and not getting into a car with a drunk driver.”
Conversely, sex is a subject most of the students will encounter at some point in their lives. Schuette said it’s important for students to understand consequences.
“Our bodies are personal and private, but they’re not nasty,” she said. “Postponing sex is a wonderful choice because we’re honoring ourselves. When we honor our values, we’re honoring our spirits.”
A 1981 Carson High School graduate, Schuette also administers the John Collins Gaskill Scholarship for eighth-graders to attend the annual trip to Washington, D.C. through World Strides. The scholarship is in honor of her brother who was diagnosed with cancer in the eighth grade and died his senior year of high school.
Her purpose, she said, is not to tell students how to live their lives but to empower them to make their own decisions.
“They’re most likely then to listen to their hearts and listen to their guts to know what is the right thing to do.”