Crystal Apple Award: Traci Schutt

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SAUK COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV)-- There’s growing research that more kids are struggling with mental health issue than alcohol and drugs.

Traci Schutt

Thursday’s Crystal Apple Award recipient from Sauk Prairie Middle School has experienced that first hand. This year she had a student with a severe cases of anxiety.

Today that student and her mom credit the teacher with bringing the young girl back from a dark place.

Traci Schutt asked, “Can you tell me one of the rules to live by that you learned from Barack Obama's speech or Steve Jobs' speech?"

For 25 years, Schutt has been using the words of presidents and CEO's to teach social studies.

But this year, she's applying those words to herself and her 6th grade students, some of whom desperately needed help.

Nola Prohaska said, “The first couple weeks I was just going along with it, and then it all fell apart."

Her mother, Erin Prohaska, added, “Just getting her to school every day became very hard, and then once in school, it was very hard for her to attend the actual classes."

“And then it kind of spiraled from there, but it spiraled very quickly,” Schutt explained.

Nola's anxiety was so debilitating, that for the first four months of the school year, she spent more time in the guidance office than in class. But Schutt wouldn't give up.

Schutt said, “I just felt like I could relate to her, and I just felt so, I felt so much for her. I didn't know what I could do so I just tried everything."

Schutt would meet Nola in the parking lot to walk her into school. They would eat lunch together. She even started a journal that she and Nola would pass back and forth. Anything to start a conversation.

“I didn't want to push her into it, but just as a way for her to talk to me when we weren't together,” said Schutt.

Nola explained, “Sometimes it was easier to just write things down on paper instead so we would talk back and forth in it."

After winter break, things slowly changed. Nola returned to classes and within weeks, she was back to her full schedule.

Prohaska said, “Now she is getting straight A's pretty much again. She's right back to the Nola that... It's like a new and improved Nola."

“It feels amazing. I won't go back, and it feels good,” said Nola.

Sauk Prairie Middle School Principal Ted Harter said, “The key to Mrs. Schutt is that she looks to build solid relationships with her kids, and that's what happened with Nola, but that's what happens with all of her kids."

And it's that life lesson that she says is the most important lesson of all.

“I don't really care how much social studies you learn. At the end of the day, I just want you to be a good person, a good person. And I try to model that for them, and let them know that I'm here for them, and I respect them and I care about them,” explained Schutt.

In fact, she cares so much that she even donated her kidney this past year to a high school staff member, whom she barely knew.

Thursday’s first honorable mention goes to Andrea Bonaparte, a school social worker at Verona Area High School, for implementing an 8th grade transition program to prepare kids for high school, and also for running a female empowerment group called, “Sisters Supporting Sisters."

The other honorable mention goes to Mary Zeimentz, or Mrs. Z, an art teacher at Clinton Community High School, for creating their annual “Evening with the Arts” event that features artwork from kids in grades K through 11 which has expanded to include the music and shop classes.