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Teacher’s Pet

December 1, 2015

We asked teachers to send in pictures of their pets along with a write-up describing how the animal is special and helps them in their profession.

Breed: Golden retriever
Owner: Jordan Robinson, vice-principal and junior high science teacher, Christ the King Junior/Senior High School, Leduc

Scout constantly has a smile on her face! No matter what we are doing ­(except going to the vet), Scout is ­excited to be there.

Scout constantly reminds me to be passionate in my profession, whether in front of students, in a meeting with staff or in conversation with peers. Watching her dive off the dock, fully stretched, four feet in the air, brings a smile to my face. She truly is a good girl. Her passion to learn inspires mine. I love searching for new dog tricks, training her, trying again and finally succeeding. She is a wonderful companion for a walk in the fall and a treasure to our family.

Breed: Sheltie
Owner: Tanya Miller, learning leader for student support, Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School, Calgary

Gracie came to me about a year ago when she was donated to the Pacific ­Assistance Dogs Society in Calgary. I volunteered to puppy raise Gracie while I was on a professional improvement fellowship. Gracie started visiting Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School when she was 10 weeks old and continued to do so a few times a month while I was on leave. When I returned to work, I shared some of my graduate work in animal-assisted intervention with my principal. With the support of our area director we agreed that having Gracie at school full-time would be great for our struggling kids.

In addition to being a service puppy in training, Gracie also acts a bit like a therapy dog, providing mental health breaks to students and staff. We ­recently held Grade 9 tours and it was very encouraging to see students and their ­parents so excited to meet Gracie.

Breed: Mixed-breed tabby
Owner:  Kendra Lowes, Grade 3 French immersion teacher, Westgate School, Calgary

Louie is a character! He loves to be around me and is very expressive and vocal when he requires something, such as attention or food!

Louie is a conversation starter in my classroom (especially on Monday mornings so that I can recount his antics from the weekend to my class!), and I use pictures of him and his actions often in class to relate lessons to the children. They love him as much as I do.

Breed: Boston terrier
Owner: Paulette Morck, guidance counsellor, Oilfields High School, Black Diamond

Baxter helps me at school some days when I need to connect with some of my tough agriculture kids. He also comes to school during exam week to calm the nerves. Another way I use him is when I teach conditioning in psychology class. He is clicker trained, which helps kids understand shaping behaviour.

Breed: Chihuahua-dachshund mix
Owner: Melinda Gushnowski, Grade 4 Logos/assistant curriculum co-ordinator, Youngstown Elementary School, Edmonton

Duke can take a gloomy day and make it bright. He is loyal, joyful and super-cute! His cuddles and excitement to be with me start and end my day on a positive note. Duke loves children! My ­students have been asking when they can meet him because they see the happiness he brings me.

Breed: Long-haired tortoiseshell
Owner: Lindsay Gross; French as a second language, language arts and art teacher; Thorhild Central School

Jinx is special because of her unique personality. She’s very “talkative” and has to make sure she is involved in everything we do around the house. Jinx likes to “help” me mark and lesson plan by making sure my computer is warm, my pencils are sharpened and my paperclips are neatly organized on the floor.

Breed: Tennessee walker
Owner: Keith Denoncourt, Grade 7 science and outdoor education teacher, Roland Michener High School, Slave Lake

I use my horse to help me connect with all of my students. From rides out at the ranch to curriculum-based items, the students get to really see the personal side of me, and hopefully that opens up some avenues for positive enrichment and engagement.

I try to engage my students, especially my non-­verbal students, by using my knowledge of animals. This has had a tremendous impact with my science and outdoor education classes. I can teach from the heart and not just from a textbook. The impact it has had on some of my anxious students so far has been impressive.

Last year I took 26 students horseback riding. I do, however, use Stony mostly to draw the students’ attention to curriculum items and how our interactions with our planet would affect his health. The students learn to apply the curriculum to real-life purposes. Using animals to connect with ­students has helped me break barriers with a lot of ­students. I have noticed that student engagement goes up and behaviour problems go down when the students can connect with a living organism.

Watch for Teacher’s Pet in future issues of the ATA News. If you’d like your pet profiled, please send a high-resolution photo, your teaching particulars and describe how your pet is special and helps you in your profession. Send to managing editor Cory Hare:


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