Critters large and small keep teachers entertained and grounded.
We asked teachers to send in a picture of their pet, along with a summary of how the animal is special and helps them in their profession. Here are just a few responses:
Owner: Louise Givens, assistant principal,
Monsignor J.J. O’Brien School, Calgary
Lisa is a wonderful companion who enjoys figuring out the job I’m trying to do, whether it's opening or closing a gate while riding her, training her sister to ride alongside us or moving cattle. Lisa focuses on the task and makes things easier for me. Trail rides on her are fun and enjoyable, and I trust her instinct to find a safe path. There is no better way to spend a day than with her.
Training a donkey has taught me that patience, relationships and trust are at the forefront of any progress I hope to make. Donkeys only do things they feel are safe; it is my job to make sure she feels safe and trusts me before she will do anything new, much like children, who learn better when they know they are in a safe environment and trust their teacher. Rewards for “baby steps” are critical to both donkeys and kids, and without patience, you can’t get far with either.
Luna and Iris
Abyssinian guinea pigs
Owner: Esther Clintberg, Grade 3, St. Catherine Elementary/
Junior High School, Edmonton
Luna and Iris spend the week at school in my classroom, mostly sitting on a pad in a student’s work area and being carried around while the student works.
They were adopted from the Edmonton Humane Society, which has led to class discussions about organizations for social justice. They were also used in a discussion to help identify healthy and unhealthy foods. I have used them as pet therapy animals for a student having a hard day and as rewards for students working independently. They help to control the noise level in the classroom and have helped a student to focus on a 45-minute test. Luna and Iris, who are both girls, are very communicative with each other and the students.
Luna and Iris are well loved in my classroom and enjoy lunchtime when the kids bring them fresh veggies and fruit from home. They are probably very glad to come to my home on the weekend when they get to run and eat all day.
Holland lop bunny
Owner: Heather Morren, Grade 4, Inglewood Elementary, Edmonton
Alfie is awesome because he has a fun personality. In the morning he runs laps around me for attention. When I exercise he comes and cuddles with me (and gets in the way). He also loves to cuddle on the couch (especially when I have candy).
Alfie is great for helping me relax at the end of the day. He also comes into the classroom about once a semester to visit with my students. They love when he visits.
Domestic shorthair cat
Owner: Jill Rauscher, Grade 1, Eleanor Hall School, Clyde
This summer, my husband and I found a newborn kitten in the middle of a gravel road and have nursed it over the last few months. As part of our science unit, Needs of Animals and Plants, I received permission from our administration and parents to have our kitten join us in class.
Besides helping us with science, Gravel is helping the children learn about animal body language and how to regulate their own behaviour, and he has given them an audience to practise their reading. Gravel has also been used elsewhere in the school to help with behavioural concerns and for speech therapy. In fact,
Gravel is so amazing that he was able to get one of the nonverbal students in our pre-kindergarten program to talk!
Owner: Jocelyn Littlefair, Assistant principal,
A.E. Bowers Elementary School, Airdrie
Last year, I engaged in a conversation with my school principal about the benefit of therapy dogs. She thought our school would really stand to benefit from one. I did a bit of research and decided that our family dog, Daisy, would have the perfect personality for this type of service. In April, Daisy and I became certified as a therapy dog and handler through both the Chestermere Therapy Dog Society and St. John Ambulance.
Since then, Daisy has worked at my school every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She is available to work with any child whose parent has signed the permission form (which includes almost every child in the school!). She listens to children when they read and cuddles with them when they want. She asks them to take her for a walk when they need a break. She helps children who are “feeling big feelings” and greets families in the morning during supervision.
Daisy has been an invaluable addition to our school. We couldn’t imagine A.E. Bowers without her.
American quarter horse
Owner: Chantal Laforest, Social Studies, English Language Arts, French as a Second Language, Lester B. Pearson High School, Calgary
Bobby is special because he is a very kind and versatile horse. Bobby is now 21 years old, and I’ve been riding him since he was five. He has been my partner in crime for 16 years, so he’s been forced to dress up for a lot of different events, such as Halloween, Easter, Christmas and birthdays.
Bobby helps me in my profession because he teaches me how to be kind and patient by being kind and patient with me. He has helped me with my teaching because sometimes he doesn’t understand things the way I’m trying to explain them to him,
so I have to find another way. This is what I do in class. I draw on what my students already know and then trick them into building on it and learning something new.
Owner: Michelle Wile, Student services, Northland School Division, Peace River
My dog, Dudley, has been a part of the classroom and my career since I arrived in Alberta more than three years ago. Dudley has participated in the classroom as a special guest for the students, and was even part of a science experiment in the Grade 4 room last year! Dudley has posed for countless pictures and filmed a number of videos using a Go Pro camera, so the kids have some contact with him, even when he can’t make it into the school. In my new position with Northland School Division I spend a lot of time travelling to a variety of schools in our division, and Dudley is my number one co-pilot on such adventures.
There are a number of things that make Dudley special. Dudley is a caring and loyal companion now that my son is grown and away at college. Dudley’s companionship makes long trips on the road more fun and less lonely. Students love to hear stories about Dudley and see his pictures, so he is still very much a part of the classroom, even while I explore another area of education.
Sun conure parrot
Owner: Ilana Manning, Grades 5–9 Music/Band, Dr. Martha Cohen School, Calgary
I’m a special birdie for several reasons. I’m an amazing dancer, well versed in both slow and fast dance styles. I am also a superb cuddler. I know my cuddling helps my owner Ilana relax after a long day at work. I also like to nibble her face and preen her eyebrows (this is a well-known, ancient parrot relaxation technique). I also like to rub my beak against her face. This means I love her, and I love Ilana a lot!
I am a big help to Ilana’s career. I am her number one supporter. I have heard every right (and wrong) note she has ever practised on her various instruments, heard every piece she has arranged for her band students, and danced along to every piece she had to study throughout university. I am 100 per cent confident that my dancing is the reason she achieved such high marks on her music exams. In conclusion, you can thank me for her education and career successes.
Owner: Diane Hansen, Student support consultant, Elk Island Public Schools, Sherwood Park
Stevie is very special to our family. She loves to run and play. She helps remind me to take time to have fun and enjoy life.