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Laurie Tweedle, a physical education and health teacher at Texas Online Preparatory School (TOPS), is using her role as a teacher to shine a light on important social issues.

Including social awareness topics in her units, Laurie is allowing her students to receive knowledge on vital issues that can affect them in their day-to-day lives.

“It is very important that students learn the importance of these topics,” Laurie said. “There are several topics that need more instructional time, such as bullying, drugs, alcohol, and puberty. Most of these are topics that parents are not able to cover like we can.”

Being a teacher for four years, Laurie understands the needs of students and the importance of having open communication with them, especially concerning the topics she covers.

“I think discussing these topics with students is very important because sometimes it can be uncomfortable for students to go to parents or vice versa,” Laurie said. “If the information comes from a teacher then students are more open to discuss and ask questions.”

Laurie hopes that by teaching students about these important topics now, it will allow her students to make better choices later.

“These topics are important things that students will be faced with at some point in their life and it is important that they know the proper steps and actions to take,” Laurie said.

Laurie used October, which was National Bullying Prevention Month, to teach a successful and influential unit on bullying.

“We discuss topics like what is bullying, who is bullied, are you a bully, what to do if you see bullying, are you a target, and how to take a stand against bullying,” Laurie said. “We hold Class Connect sessions, watch videos about bullying and explain the importance in stopping bullying one student at a time.”

For the unit, Laurie and her class partnered with The Pacer Foundation to incorporate anti-bullying lessons. They also started a booster T-shirt campaign with all proceeds going to the foundation. Laurie, her students, and their families raised $700 for the Pacer Foundation, and they are looking to raise even more in the future.

Laurie’s students and their parents have reacted positively to her in-depth units. One of her students stated, “I’m now learning how I can fix my flaws and embrace my insecurities, almost as if I don’t have any at all. I’m most definitely learning to love myself for who I actually am.”

Laurie attributes the units’ success to her use of pertinent issues and relatable lessons.

“These are topics that would be covered in a traditional public school,” Laurie said. “These topics are important for all students to learn about and be exposed to. We use real life situations and make it relevant to things that will be faced with in life.”

Laurie is already looking forward to future units and activities, including implementing Jump Rope for Heart in January. With her innovative ideas, in-depth units, and effervescent passion for teaching, Laurie is achieving her goal of being an influential teacher for her students.

“I want to be an influential person in my students’ lives and make a difference,” Laurie said.

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