Lawrence is VFW Teacher of the Year

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Guttenberg VFW member Stan Blair presents teacher and veteran Brian Lawrence with the 2015 State of Iowa VFW Teacher of the Year Award. Lawrence was chosen above all other sixth to eighth grade teachers in the state. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

Brian Lawrence is a science teacher at Clayton Ridge Middle School. He is also a soldier. Lawrence spent 10½ years in the U.S. Army Special Operations with the 3rd Ranger Battalion and 20th Special Forces Group. He served during the Cold War and the Global War on Terror, and has been on multiple combat operations in Central America and the Middle East. Last week, he was named the 2015 State of Iowa VFW Teacher of the Year. 

“Brian is an inspiring teacher who continues to dedicate his daily instruction to further develop and maintain a future generation that displays outstanding character in the area of citizenship in our community, country and world,” said Principal Shane Wahls. “He has set clear and concise expectations while modeling the true meaning of citizenship and fostering the development and enrichment of lifelong values and beliefs that should characterize the “American Citizen.”  

In 1995, Lawrence was hired as an associate for the Garnavillo School District. While working full time, he completed Upper Iowa’s two-year teaching endorsement program in one year, and in 2001 – the first year Guttenberg and Garnavillo students shared classrooms – he led his own classroom for the first time. That fall, Lawrence and his eighth grade science students watched in awe as planes struck the Twin Towers. 

After just a short time spent officially teaching, Lawrence was deployed to Afghanistan in 2003.He has attended the U.S. military’s Individual Terrorism Awareness Course, a bomb awareness training course, the 2010 Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium, and the 2014 U.S. Department of Justice FBI Active Shooter Conference and Threat Assessment Core Concepts. Recently, Lawrence has been instrumental in the Clayton County ALICE (Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate) Coalition for responding to potential school intruders and has partnered with local law enforcement to begin training students and teachers at Clayton Ridge.

“Brian often integrates lessons about Sept. 11, Veteran’s Day, and from his own personal experiences while in active duty in Panama and Afghanistan,” said Wahls. “These lessons stimulate interest in Americanism, civic responsibility and especially, patriotism.”

Because of Lawrence and other exemplary teachers at Clayton Ridge Middle School, numerous students have received district awards for their writing in VFW essay contests. “Patriotism is a big part of this school,” said Cheri Werges, the social studies and language arts teacher who submits student work to the VFW. On at least four occasions, her students have been recognized at state competitions and have even attended nationals in Washington, D.C. 

“Brian uses his background in the military to teach kids daily about current events,” Werges told The Press. “He has been a speaker at the Veteran’s Day assembly in Guttenberg, sharing his military background and stories. He also spends Vet’s Day speaking to all of his classes about the importance of the military, his training, his experiences and supporting our military and their families.”

Family, friends, coworkers, and all the middle school students gathered on Tuesday, April 7, to surprise Lawrence with the presentation of the VFW Teacher of the Year Award. Guttenberg VFW members Stan Blair, Dick Eilers, Jim Hansel and Bob Moser also presented Principal Shane Wahls with an award to the middle school for the promotion of citizenship education in the classroom. Blair told students, “You’ve had very good success with your essay writing, and that reflects upon the teachers and your overall education.”

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