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Hamilton Southeastern science teacher shows compassion for all students

Meet November’s Golden Apple Award winner!

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) —  WISH-TV is Indiana’s education station and that means News 8 celebrates extraordinary teachers with the Golden Apple Award. It comes with a trophy, a school supply shopping spree to Teachers’ Treasures, a video message from students and staff, and a surprise visit from the News 8 team with the help of Hensley Legal Group.

November’s winner is Mrs. Courtney Lawhead!

She is known for her compassion for all students in the Hamilton Southeastern School District. In fact, her own son dubs her the “mom” of Hamilton Southeastern High School. While Lawhead is a science teacher there, she does just about every other job you can think of in the district – including running a program to help students in need.

In education, there’s both a science to teaching and something about teaching that science can’t explain.

Hamilton Southeastern High School Principal Reginald Simmons says Lawhead was born to be a teacher, and she doesn’t just teach a subject the school.

“She teaches students — not just science. She teaches her kids, and that is what makes her really special, her ability to care for every single person,” Simmons said. “She really understands that as an educator we are serving our community — we are serving our kids and serving our families and she does it in such a selfless way. She doesn’t expect anything in return. I really think she fills her bucket by giving to others.”

Whether Lawhead teaches students in science or not, she stands out in the district, even among educators.

Sophomore Drew Benedetto said, “She’s the best teacher in the world, and I love to have her for science class.”

Junior Isaac Williams said, “Extremely hardworking. I don’t think I have ever really seen her take a day off. She is always like helping someone, no matter what.”

“She always joked around that all of her students are her kids, she protects everyone,” Evan Lawhead, high school student and Lawhead’s son, said.

“She helps students so much with emotional support. If a student ever comes in and is having a hard time or something happens, she will take them in the lab and have a discussion with them.” Evan said. “She will take in anybody – she just cares for everybody in this school.”

That care is evident in how she treats students and the never-ending list of activities she does at the school.

She helps with prom and student council, runs the euchre club, helps Riley Dance Marathon, and is the president of the wrestling program. She also helps with the school’s exceptional learners program, Best Buddies, is part of the Culture Committee, and sponsors several clubs and sports.

When asked how Mrs. Lawhead does it all, Principal Simmons said, “That’s a great question — and you know we have to slow her down sometimes. Because you know if there is a need, she wants to be the first one to try and fill it.”

Plus, she won “Teacher of the Year” last spring and was named “Mom of the Year” in Fishers in 2016.

Katie Beegle works with Lawhead, and says she cares about every student’s wellbeing, even the ones she doesn’t know. Beegle says taking over and running Roary’s Closet, a closet full of clothing and essential needs, was a calling.

“Roary’s Closet is a closet in HSE attached to one of the hallways, and in there, there are clothes of all different sizes. Kids clothes, adult clothes, anything. There are also a lot of personal hygiene products, like shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant – whatever a child might need here,” she said.

Kids can submit what they need anonymously online. Then, the items are put in a locker, and the students can retrieve them without anyone knowing.

“She changes the lives of so many students and really changes the lives of her coworkers and co-teachers — myself included. She makes me want to be better every single day,” Beegle said.

That’s why Beegle nominated Mrs. Lawhead for the WISH-TV Golden Apple Award.

“She just deserves it so much, I just knew if people heard all that she does, she would get the praise and award that she deserves,” Beegle said.

So, the News 8 team surprised her. Mrs. Lawhead was shocked.

“I’m overwhelmed – it is just really great. I will buy lots of chalk with this for sure,” Mrs. Lawhead said.

When asked if she was surprised, she responded, “Very much! I did not expect this and I thank you!”

In this experiment of life, Mrs. Lawhead is proof that the hypothesis of caring has the best kind of conclusion.

“I am so thankful for being able to do it and I don’t feel like you need awards to help people. I actually think helping people fills your bucket and makes you think less about yourself,” said Lawhead. “Always look for the positive and not the negative, everybody deserves to be helped.

To watch other Golden Apple Award recipients, click this link.

To nominate a deserving teacher for next month’s Golden Apple Award, submit a detailed nomination here.