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Middle School Teacher Earns Awards for Her Work in Social Emotional Learning & Promoting Well Being

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted January 25, 2023

Noticing a significant increase in stress among young people today, Montgomery Upper Middle School Teacher Stefanie Lachenauer decided to add a new certification to her long list of credentials. She became a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor in 2018 to help stressed teens. She is also a certified trauma and resilience practitioner who provides professional development to other educators with a focus on global leadership, equity, and social and emotional learning (SEL).

From left: Antonietta B. Phelan, program director at the Somerset County Office of Youth Services; Stefanie A. Lachenauer, teacher, Upper Middle School; and Shanel Y. Robinson, director of the Somerset County Commissioners.

The Somerset County Youth Services Commission recognized Lachenauer in December by awarding her a plaque for “selflessly giving her time and talents to better the lives of Somerset County youth.” The county commission presented her with the Paul and Jean Krauss Award for Professional Excellence in Service to Youth on December 12. As a member of the Montgomery/ Rocky Hill Municipal Alliance and Youth Services Commission, Lachenauer is actively involved in providing professional services to youth.

Governor’s Middle School Educator of the Year

In addition, Lachenauer was named the 2023 Upper Middle School Governor’s Educator of the Year. “This honor wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing community of students, educators, and administrators I work with every day,” she said. “Together, we’re making an impact both locally and globally by empowering our students to create change and to take care of themselves. “One of the key pillars of our success has been focusing on the importance of global leadership, wellbeing, trauma informed practices, and SEL [Social Emotional Learning] in schools. “It’s critical that we prioritize not only academic growth, but also emotional and mental wellbeing. Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this joyful journey. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!”

Additionally, Lachenauer began the Reflections Club, which teaches stress relief strategies. As an innovative forward-thinking educator, Lachenauer created the course Global Leadership, in which she supports students in learning what it means to be a global citizen and how to think globally and act locally. Her course connects to a variety of local community efforts, and she supports students in creating change right here in Montgomery. Students learn to make their voices heard through letter writing, donations, connecting to non-profits, and an annual fundraiser that supports local nonprofits called Monty’s Got Talent.

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Lachenauer is also the cochair of the UMS Compassionate Care Team which is the Trauma Informed group at UMS. She offers professional development to her school’s staff throughout the school year and has even helped to get her peers certified to be trauma-informed specialists. She also helped start and continues to organize self-care days for her students providing them with healthy coping strategies, executive functioning skills, and different wellness modalities.

As an Education First group leader, Lachenauer has organized and chaperoned leadership, STEM, and service-learning experiences for hundreds of students in Somerset County by traveling with them to over 20 countries over the last eight years. Lori Huff, chairperson of the Montgomery Rocky Hill Municipal Alliance and Youth Services Committee says, “We are grateful that Stefanie has been an active member of the municipal alliance for many years.” “She has freely shared her expertise and talents with us whenever and however she can,” Huff says. “This includes providing mindfulness demonstrations and teachings at alliance-sponsored events and assisting with local projects wherever she can.”

Lachenauer led a grant-sponsored yoga and mindfulness club at the Upper Middle School for a few years until it was added as a regular school club last year. She is also the facilitator for the Youth Action Board which is a Youth Services Committee grant-funded group of high school students who are spreading awareness and educating others about mental health while helping to reduce the stigma of people with mental health struggles. “We are so proud of Stefanie and her significant contributions to the students in Montgomery and beyond. We applaud her for her work,” Huff says.

According to the Somerset County Youth Services Commission, the Paul and Jean Krauss Award is given to someone who has been actively involved in providing professional services to youth in their different careers, either through direct contact with youth or through the development of programs and policies that have impacted youth and their families. The award was developed by The Friends of Somerset County Youth in an effort to celebrate the contributions of Mr. and Mrs. Krauss, and to provide an opportunity for other professionals to receive recognition of their efforts for the county’s youth that exceeds what is expected.


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