TRANSCRIPT: 3 Tips for Starting a Therapy Dog Program at Your School (feat. Joel Asiala from Washington Middle School)
1:37PM Apr 1, 2022
When kids are having a bad day or when a student is crying, or you know something's going on at home, when Tucker blue come lay with them, it's it's one of those things where you, you see it and you don't really understand and you look at the child and they're petting the dog, and pretty soon, that's all they're thinking about is the dog. And it's just amazing to see. Even if a kid just walks by and a talker gives a little pat on pat on the head, or, Hey, Give me high five Tucker, those are little things that you know that they're just engaged with the dog and they're engaged with what's going on in the school and you're helping them by just having that dog there. And those are the, those are the 1000 little things you see, over and over.
I'm Nikki Herta and this is bright stories of hope and innovation in Michigan classrooms. A podcast where we celebrate our state's educators and explore the future of learning.
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today's episode of bright a chat with Joel a sila, principal of Washington Middle School in Michigan's northern most school district, the public schools of Calumet Boreum and Qivana better known as CLK a research team actually recently visited CLK and wrote an in depth report on their many student centered learning initiatives in February 2022. You can see the results of this fascinating study at michigan virtual.org/research. And the following conversation, Joel breaks down his district's student first approach, shares how and why he had his family pet Tucker, trained as a professional therapy dog and offers his top three tips for starting a therapy dog program at your school. Well, Joel, thank you so much for joining me for the bright podcast today. It's a pleasure to have you would you be able to tell me about the most interesting project that you're working on at your school right now, we have several things going on. But our student first approach, that's the biggest our biggest overtake or undertaking, I guess,
from when I started, I just started here during the summer. So I'm a couple months into this, I was at horizons for an alternative school for five years. So we're taking some of the things that we learned in the alternative school and we're transforming over to the mainstream. So the biggest things we're bringing in this year, right now we're working on bringing a food pantry right into the school. So kids have access to food at any time they want during the day, and they also can take it home and the families can use it. So having that is a big undertaking. And that's finally up and running. And we're working on maker spaces. So that's a big part of what we're doing in the maker spaces are going to allow students when they're done with class to be able to go and hang out and work with laser engravers and Cricut machines and robots, and we got a $56,000 donation do that. So that's been really good. And then our flex labs and our flex labs are 25 minutes on both sides of lunch where students will be able to have access to
it's like a guided study, I guess students will have access to all their teachers will build flow to any classroom they want to go to, to get the help they need. And then when they're all caught up and have all their homework done, and they understand or tests or quizzes or whatever, they can then go into those maker spaces and try something new and create something and take what they learned in class and apply it to the hands on project based education type stuff. So we have a lot going on. It sounds like it. Yeah, I think my teachers are probably thinking a little crazy at times, but
they've really jumped on board. And we've we've done some really cool things. So lots of lots of different things going on all at once.
So you said you brought a lot of those projects, those were things that you've kind of piloted or tried out at your alternative school that you were at. That's horizons, right? Yeah. Several years.
Correct. So horizons, alternative high school is climate. I'm part of the same district. It's our alternative school. Up north, I say up north, because it's the furthest high school in Michigan. So yeah, so we worked there. I worked there for five years, I learned a lot and then saw what helped out kids that struggled and and so we took what we learned there, and we're gonna apply it to a middle school model, and see if we can't bring some of those ideas here to help some of those students, before they get to that stage where they kind of want to quit or give up.
Do you believe that a lot of the things that you've that are found to be effective in alternative settings can also benefit and have a big impact on, you know, non alternative schools?
Yeah, I think that I truly believe that. If you can figure out how to work in the alternative setting and see success, if you bring that to the mainstream, you're gonna be extremely successful. Right. And these are some of the students that struggle the most in your, in your regular classes, as they call them here. But they're just classes or kids, no matter where you're at, in their kids and, and so if you can figure out how to reach a population that struggle the most, that's only going to enhance your ability to reach the kids that are doing at the top, middle and at the bottom. So yeah, I, I really do believe that the stuff I've learned there is, is going to be very helpful to to bring it here and drill this program here as well.
It makes a lot of sense to me, actually, I had never thought about it, you know, like through that lens before. But you know, even if I think about like, you know, myself, I was always I was motivated to do my homework and everything. But there is a difference between being engaged. And, you know, like, into, like really having that like that student first. And that passion and that alignment.
And that that's the biggest thing, right? There's a passion, that passion is the I think the biggest the biggest thing in schools is getting students to realize that they're passionate about something, because it's a lot. It's while I say it's not no longer work, even I don't come to work every day I have, I have a great career, right? Because I found some is passionate about if you can find those passions and students at an earlier age, in middle school age or an elementary age, just so much easier to approach them, students get them students to work, because they're working for something they like to do. It's, it's an it's so easy, but so hard at the same time. And, and so that's what we've learned at the alternative school is, you know, you can do your social studies. You can do your science, you do your math, you can do everything you want to do. But if a kid doesn't have passion behind it, they're not going to go and do their best. And so we allow them students at horizons, we allow those students once you're done, you're so excited. You can go work in the MakerSpace. So you can go work on your math and your science or we had a gaming room actually, we had eSports that we brought into horizon. Yeah. So we had a lot, a lot of a lot of success with that. And now the person took over after me. So I worked. I worked with a student, I really, I couldn't figure out how to get that student to school. And I worked really hard. And I tried everything I could and I told the guy that took over during kinnunen For me, I'm like, Man, he's a great kid, but we just got to figure it out. Darington and talk to him. What are you passionate about? What do you love us I love my motorbike, but my motorbike doesn't work anymore. Dan said, I got it, you come into my school, bring your engine in here, all by all tools for you. If you're here every day, you get your work done. You can work anymore by the kid hasn't missed a single day. And he's he's passing school. So what does that tell you? Right? You find something they're passionate about lock in, hone into it. And it's amazing stuff. That's what we're trying to do here is find those passions. And we talked a little bit about the student first approach, and I know this is this is going to be about Tucker and and our therapy dog and students first approach is wrapped around this finding on what kids are passionate about and but also finding out when they're struggling, what can you do to pull them back on track. And Tucker has been a huge part of that. And that's our therapy dog. I wish I had him here. But the good, the bad, the ugly with therapy dogs is you can always bring him to school. I have stuff after school I have to go so I don't get to introduce you to him. But he was a huge part of horizons and his big part here. Actually, we piloted the therapy dog program up at horizons. And I brought him to the main campus at I think about three years ago. And Darrin Kynan was a social worker at that point in time. And when I brought Tucker in and brought him into a big group of kids, Tucker immediately went to the back of the class. And there was a kid sitting there. And Tucker sat down and put his head on this kid's lap. And Darren's like, what's your dog doing? I said, just sit back and watch. And pretty soon this kid, the student that was upset and angry and didn't want to be there as petting Tucker, and then pretty soon Tucker puts his pop because that's what he does. He puts his paw on, you know, kids lap anytime you quit petting him, he puts his pop there he wants attention. And after 810 minutes the kid was smiling talking. And and I called Tucker over to me and the student actually follow the dog. And so that's when our social worker said this is absolutely amazing. We need to get this in our regular school. And I use that term regular lightly. We need to get it in our regular schools and that's that's where it started. That's where our therapy dogs in this area started is is that that little instance in the main campus and now we have blue in our main campus. He's our middle school dog. And now since I moved to main campus, we have two therapy dogs actually three We have Bailey, who was a little tiny dog, but she's, um, she's been training. She has potty break issues everyone's Wow. So that's, that's a bad thing, right, you have to put up with animal behaviors here and there. But that's how we kind of started. And then our, our elementary school got two dogs as well. So they bring two dogs in. And now it's actually we have a couple schools in our area that got therapy dogs after hearing some of the success stories. So I know it's a lot.
Oh, it's amazing, I can see, you know, just at face value, how those things connect to capturing kids hearts, right, as you said, student first approach, food pantry, probably because people need to eat, you know, well,
you'd be amazed, I think everybody would be amazed if you just jumped in your car. If your principal or a teacher jump in your car and drive around your district, drive around your district and see, kind of take it in and see what's going on. And you're gonna start to see some things that you kind of, I don't think you understood. When you took the job, right? You you drive around, and you see that their kids struggling, their families struggling. And those those students need as much help as we can give them and that that's where we started with the alternative school. It didn't start with me until I well first of all, I started there and I tried to be very strict. And that's my background is kind of strict disciplinarian and a teacher came up to me after about four or five months, or name's Mike north and said, Hey, what you're doing is not working. It's just not your your, these kids are used to someone yelling at them, they're used to someone, you know, telling him giving you all the rules. And that hasn't worked. So So I changed my approach. And that really helped. And then I ended up bringing a student home one day and I kind of saw what, what they were dealing with. And that's when we started going down all these other different roads, just to try to realize that I mean, if you look at any philosopher, you know, Maslow or Piaget or anybody that you learned about in education, from back in the day, you'll see that, you know, making sure they're fed making sure that they feel safe, making sure they feel understood. Maybe even go as far as feeling loved or accepted. Maybe if you can get those things down. The teaching is the easiest part that that's the easiest part, getting the information is the easiest part. If you have those other things in place, and, and I'm lucky I have Mr. Davidson, he's my boss that kind of allows me to do what I think is best. And then we have great people like Vern Hazzard from capturing kids hearts or Kevin store from the Portello Foundation, who gave us the grants to capturing kids hearts, or Laurel Mackey, who is a works with 31 backpacks, she does all our food pantry stuff. So it really is a community at work here. And so that's the biggest part of it. They also donated for the therapy dogs. So a school by itself can't do all these things. But when you get partnerships like like we have with with different places on this virus and Portage and different hospitals or area, different people were able to do a lot of cool things.
I find it really powerful to just, you know, to give you credit to like, it's kind of hard to change your approach. Essentially, I imagine you were talking about being you know, strict disciplinarian, that was probably a habit you had for a long time, you know, as an educator before you ever got there. And so that flexibility to say, you know, the teacher coming up to you and saying, Hey, this isn't working. I imagine that was kind of hard to shift. But you did it. You had a growth mindset. And you said, Okay, well, thank you. And maybe you didn't say that at the time? Who knows?
Well, no, I did. I guess I'm I'm a little probably different. Because, you know, my door is open and we do have rounding with teachers and they're allowed to come in and tell me hey, this is working. This isn't working. And it's just like one of those things it you have to work with your teachers, you have to work with your parents, you have to work with your superintendent and we're very fortunate here at kalimat we have just awesome teachers and awesome parents and and and a great board that allows us to do these things but yeah, I 1213 years in a different school working and that was my job as disciplinary and special ed teacher so you know, I kind of follow that path and and when I was told I was it wasn't working I I had to stop and think what what what's going to happen and they guided me I mean those Meg north and Troy Jarvie and Luke Tyson and Keith Johnson, I don't want to forget any of their names because they help make sure that I was on the right path as a principal and they shaped what what we're doing today. So they are they were just unreal. And following their lead. It was so easy.
I want to ask you, do you remember like a moment that you like fell in love with education and like just knew that you wanted to go into education. It could have been before you entered the profession, or it could have been one of those like, moments where it just like clicked and you realized, yep, this is it for me.
No, I kind of ended up like, kind of laugh is I ended up here by accident. And a lot of little accidents on the way I fell in education. Because I actually dropped out of college. I didn't know what I was going to do. And the old Superintendent of my school, Pat Rogers called me up and said, Hey, I heard you're free. You have some free time in your hands. Can you come in work as a substitute teacher? Yeah, no problem at all. So I started substitute teaching and working with kids with disabilities. And I fell in love with it. So I went back to college, and I started doing I went for social studies, and PE and then I ended up getting a job in special education by accident by full time sub jobs. So I went got my Master's in special education. And as I was working, special education, our superintendent got sick, and our principal was sick. So they're out the building, they asked me to discipline so I kind of accidentally ended up in the discipline role, and then somehow ended up horizons. And now I'm sitting here. So you know, I think I've always loved working with kids. I've always loved working with kids that have challenges. I was, it's kind of that's where my passion lies. And education provides that I guess. So. There's no real time, it just it just kind of a path that just accidentally keep falling into the right spots, I guess.
Yeah, you know, I almost in a way, like that story better than, you know, oh, I knew I was gonna be a teacher from the age I was, you know, five, you know, like, because I don't know, it's like you, it's almost one magical that you like, just fell into it. Yeah. Somebody was like, Hey, you want to sub? And you're like, sure. I realized you loved it. That's kind of magical.
And I you know, right away, like you say, I knew when you hear that a lot I knew as me teachers in fifth grade, but I struggled in school. And beginning I had some great teachers for solucionar, with who helped me with reading and Sherry Norman, who really spent a lot of time with me when I was younger, and fifth and sixth grade. And Jim Lange was our principal and Mike Benda, you know, some of those teachers that really just did a lot for me and kind of helped me through. So it was more of a, it was more of a struggle. So I would have never saw myself as an educator, as a young individual. I mean, as you got older, you understand what's going on, and you understand passion, and you understand, you're going to something you love, you know, obviously things change. But no, I had some great teachers along the way. But yeah, I would have never said in fifth grade or sixth grade, I don't think any of my teachers were said even in 11th or 12th grade, this guy is going to be an educator or administrator. So lots of accidents.
I must imagine that that would give you like, a different perspective and some empathy, especially in you know, working in an alternative setting. Now working in middle school, like if you can remember being a kid that struggled, you know, that maybe being able to empathize with kids that struggle, what do you Yeah,
you know, it gives you a different view, right? When you understand that kid that really does want to do well, and impress their parents or impress their friends. Remember, when you're teaching these, these students, a lot of times we forget that they're demonstrating their ability in front of their peers, over and over and over. So you're looking at self efficacy and self esteem and, and how that's related. And especially if you're a struggling student, you kind of lose passion, you lose belief in yourself when you struggle, because your peers see it every single day. And so that that's a struggle, I think, understanding that has really helped, I think seeing that is really helped. But you see it in students all the time. And you kind of see them around this middle school age where they, they start to give up a little bit. And so that's why I'm really excited to be at this middle school, because I think being able to reach those kids that have struggled a little bit is, it's the feeling is unbelievable, when you can get them to that, that point where they're, they love being here, or they they don't know why they just love being here, and they start showing up more and more and, and so our teachers focus on that here in the middle school, and it's absolutely amazing to see what they do our sixth grade teams and seventh and eighth grade teams just absolutely amazing what they do with those students who struggle and start getting their participation up and, and getting their attendance up and getting discipline referrals down just by that communicating and finding what they love to do and, and then working with it.
It really, you know, demonstrates both anecdotally and imagined there's plenty of research to back this up, you know, student engagement and engaging student interest, right. But just proves the efficacy of that model. Just even those examples of you know, a student who went from wanting Nothing to do with this too. You know, like you said the kid with the Moto motorbike, you know, yeah, is hasn't missed today. Like, it's, it's just also I mentioned like showing that you care, right? Even the food pantry and all these different examples. It's like, hey, you know, it shows with your actions as an educator and as a school that you care about them. Yeah.
And in our we went down this capturing kids hearts path and Vern hazard I put I was put a little plug in for Vern because he's he's done so much for me as an individual, and for us as a school, but we have teachers in the hallway. So imagine if you're, you're a student coming into a building and no one's there, you just walk in, you go to your lock up your stuff, throw your stuff and watch the lunchroom, no one really greets you. No one really says hey, how you doing? You go to class at the end of the day you walk out for those kids that struggle, they feel invisible. Now if you turn that around, and you say, at the door, you have a wagging dog wagging a tail, tail wagging from a dog ready to see you ready, ready to start your day off and teachers in the hallway giving you high fiber fist bumps now. I guess it's COVID. So you're not supposed to do a bunch of stuff. But elbow bumps Yeah. So you can do all kinds of different stuff. Imagine how that changes your feeling about school. And that's what I think our teachers here at karma have done so well at you know, they allow the dogs to come in class, they you know, we have a teacher right next door that has treats for him and the dogs walk in and out in blue and Tucker walk in and out and Bailey. And the students, the students really grow with that. And like I said, if you come into a school where it feels cold, it's you're not gonna get a lot of participation or your kids of course your top and kids are going to be your top and kids and they're going to do well with or without us. They're gonna do better with us, but your middle, your middle kids and your kids on the bottom are struggling really need that and so even your top and kids need it. But some of those kids needed a little bit more and and they'll sell more for you and they'll work harder for you if you know hey, how's your day? How's your weekend? Oh, I heard you caught a nice fish or it doesn't have to be about education. It shouldn't be about education should you know I saw you score 10 points at your basketball game or I saw you had a nice defensive thing or hey you got first chair and in band or you did really good inquire or something outside right? To make that connection and our teachers here do a phenomenal job at that. And that's thanks to capturing kids hearts and the path we went down there. Thanks to Darren kitten and Carmen Markman a few others that really worked hard to make sure these programs got here.
I'm Nikki Herta and you're listening to bright stories of hope and innovation in Michigan classrooms. Bright is brought to you in part by Meemic insurance company, insuring the educational community for more than 70 years. teachers and school employees visit meemic.com/quote to see how much you can save. Today I'm sharing with Joel a sealer, principal of Washington Middle School in Michigan's northern most school district. Up next we dive into how and why Georgia has family pet Tucker trained as a therapy dog. What a day in the life of a therapy dog actually looks like. And of course, Joel's top three tips for starting a therapy dog program at your school. So today, we're gonna be talking about three tips for bringing therapy dogs in your school. I do want to unpack the why a little bit. I think we've gotten hints of it for sure with the stories that you were talking about with bringing, you know, I think you said it was Tucker first that he came into the classroom and sat down with the kid in the back and just you know really kind of brought him out of his shell a little bit. Or I was curious if you would just let me know like what first motivated you to bring Tucker is your your family dog right?
Yeah, yeah, he's our family.
So what first like sparked this idea what got you to bring Tucker into your school? Or is
once again it was an accident. So Meg North was a teacher up at her iser is a teacher of our our, our alternative school and she had a dog called Sweet Pea and Sweet Pea would come into school and it was actually a trained therapy dog. And I didn't know this, but when I came in and got the job, the Sweet Pea had passed away. And so I saw pictures. I'm like, Well, that looks just like my dog. And she's like, Well, why don't you bring your dog in? I'm not bringing a dog to school. That's crazy. No, and she she hounded me a little bit here and there. And so finally I brought him in and I was amazed. I was just amazed that the kids are laying on the floor with them and petting him and he's laying on the floor and he just he loves to be pet right and, and so I start bringing more and more and then spires, Kuna, our local hospital. That's where my wife works. They had a presentation about therapy dogs, they want to bring therapy dogs in the hospital, my wife will says, Well, we have a dog that goes to the school every day. He can come to the hospital, and they said he had to get trained. So Kim Piaget, who works for the hospital, said that she would go get him trained through Pet Partners. So she got him trained as a therapy dog to Pet Partners. And the rest is history. He now goes to the hospitals weekend, he goes to Michigan Tech University during exam times, and he comes to school almost daily for the US. And so that's that's how it kind of got started. It's amazing when you see a kid that's having a bad day, when the dog comes up to him sits down and you just see those frustrations kind of melt away and they're on the floor with the dog and rolling. And I'll tell you it's not only the students, IT staff, our teachers our teachers a dog have come in and I'll start talking I'll start petting the dog and and you know, even in my office a dog we sitting here and it makes a lot of conversations a lot easier. It I don't know all the research. I'm not a dog research person. I don't I don't do all the research. I'm not a dog trainer, I just know that it works. And it's amazing to see. So I can't give you the research on why your hallway or anything like that. I just know it works. It's pretty amazing to see. So that's how he got started. And then now he's we brought blue and it's kind of same way where we actually bought blue. And our secretary at the middle of school is his handler. So it's a family dog. And they bring blue in as well. And same thing with the elementary school.
Um, what kind of dog is Tucker?
Labradoodles? So Goldendoodle and Labradoodle so that hypoallergenic part? I'm actually really allergic to dogs. And all kinds of different
wondering that too. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, so me and my son are allergic to animals. Actually, when Tucker when he's not, if he does not bathe every couple of weeks, my allergies kick up. So we know when when we have to make sure he's paid and taken care of. But yeah, have that hypoallergenic part of it's very, very important because some kids are really, really allergic to, to for the oils of fur. So that's why we chose the Labradoodle on the Goldendoodles.
What is a day in the life look like for a therapy dog at school?
A lot of just sitting there and get pet. You know, he in the beginning, it's a it's kind of neat to see, I guess he's been trained, and you kind of take it for granted. But in the beginning of the day in the morning, he's always in the hallways roaming around because there's kids walking in. So he goes from door to door to door, looking for kids that'll pay attention to them. And they'll pet them. If a kid doesn't want to pay attention, they keep walking and he just goes find somebody else. And then he'll come sit in my office, once the bell rings, we'll come sit in my office and and he'll get up once in a while want to hear some commotion and he'll go into a classroom here or there. Or if I go for a walk, you'll come with me into the classrooms, he'll sit down, but soon as that bell rings, boom, he's up. He's in the hallway, he's walking around, checking things out. So that's what he basically does on a daily daily basis. He, if a student comes into the office, because they've been removed from the class, for some reason, whatever the reason being, he'll go spend time with that child because he just loves being packed and blew over the same thing and barely does the same thing. So basically, they roam around and look to be packed. That's that kind of their day. That's what they love to do. And that's kind of
a nice day, actually. Yeah. Cool. So you kind of like sets us on schedule, if you will, besides being trained with the bell or by choice. Yeah. Yeah, that's all like, it's not like, oh, he goes to this classroom at this time. And
no, no, no, we, um, you know, if a teacher is having a tough day, and they know they're gonna have a tough day, or they have some things going on in the class, they'll take them up to class. And my son goes to school here too. So he'll, he'll roam out and find my son and then kind of hang out with my son for the day here. And yeah, so he gets his dog at school, spoiled.
Alright, so we dig into our three strategies that you have to offer us. Or really, you know, if you imagine an educator and administrator who's interested in maybe getting started with bringing the therapy dog to school that just doesn't really know where to start, like, what pieces of advice would you give them? And I'll turn it over to you to start with just number one, your first piece of advice.
I get asked this a lot, especially now because obviously, so a lot of our local schools are moving towards this. I'm not a dog expert. I'm not an expert in the area of therapy dogs. My first bit of advice is you need to find a dog that is moving really motivated by being packed or being logged on, and that is really laid back, doesn't want to jump does it is not aggressive, doesn't bark, those are things you got to find, finding a puppy and training a puppy, it's gonna take you a year and a half to do this, so you're better off looking for a dog that someone a staff member has that is just a really good dog and understand that a dog person is going to love their dog. And so you have to be able to see what they're like in class, you have to make that determination. And, and that's tough too, because a lot of people treat their dogs, it's their family. So that's always a tough thing to do. But your first thing to look at as dog is I wouldn't go down and call it a therapy dog, I'd call it a school pet. And get him trained in obedience, because that's the easiest thing to do is get get the dog obedience trained. Once you have the dog obedience train, you can then go for the pet therapy, but a therapy dog is only going to work about two hours a day. So the other times you can have the dog as a as just the school pet where they're roaming around and not doing therapy per se. But they're just doing just being a pet just just being there. Right. And so Tucker, we make sure that you only say overworked, right, so if he's going to spend time with a student that is struggling, we'll have them with that, that person but but not for over 3040 minutes, because it is taxing on a dog. And so we want to make sure that they have that ability to play as well. So that's the first piece of advice, find a dog that suits you suits, your school is very laid back and then and just look at it as a school pack, and then do the obedience training. And then look at the therapy part of it. Because therapy training is there's a lot of work involved in it.
You can imagine and that's, that's helpful to hear, too, that, you know, you can get a puppy and train them from a young age, but in a way, it's probably better to have one with a personal connection, a dog with a personal connection to the school. And that just has that right, you know, temperament for for the job, you know, cuz then yeah, you know, kinda like with humans, right, you can get training to do the skills, but you know,
you gotta, it's gotta be natural. Yeah, and it's just got to be natural. And that's why it's so hard to say I'm gonna get this puppy. Remember that you train puppies, and they get to be a year, year and a half old knows, okay, this, this puppy isn't going to work. Because it just doesn't have the demeanor or it doesn't have that and, and you're not going to force that on a dog. Remember, you're working with children, so you're not going to force that on a dog. So the easiest, the easiest would be to find a dog that has that right temperament that is hypoallergenic, and kind of ready to go and slowly introduce them. Because remember, you have 150 kids, 200 kids, or even 60 or 70 kids running around, that dog is gonna get overwhelmed very quickly. And so just slow introductions. And once they get going, almost like Tucker, I'll be surrounded by 15 or 20, or even 30 kindergarteners at one time, and they'll just lay down and roll around. And when he's done, he walks off, right? So there's a lot of logistical things you got to look at when you're looking at a therapy dog or a school pet, per se.
Alright, how about your second tip for us?
Second tip would be the dog should be with somebody that is going to be around the school a lot, you don't. I'm around the school quite a bit, I walk around in classrooms. So Tucker comes with me a lot. So he's used to rolling us roaming in the school and getting in the classrooms and seeing classroom. So you want somebody that's that's willing to walk the dog around a lot on their prep hours, maybe you have teachers to prep hours and, and they're willing to do that it takes a lot of time. It takes someone that is committed and someone that really wants to be with a dog and believes in what it can do for the school. So you have to find that person finding a dog is very important. But finding that person is almost as important or if not more important, some of that's going to spend the time because they're with this dog all the time. And it's a constant training. You constantly look at their behaviors, if they're if they start jumping, you got to you know, correct that behavior. So finding that right person is going to be very, very important. Just like just as important as finding the right dog.
Yeah, and so probably helps, right, like Tucker is your dog. And then you said her secretary, I think at Washington, you know, was blue already her dog or?
No? No. So yeah, she so naughty. So we have a trauma team here that we meet on a regular basis and look at our our trauma and how it's going in school and what were you know, what our levels and and how kids are doing and during that process. Once we figured out we wanted to go down the therapy dog route We actually asked people to submit applications to where we can buy them a dog and Nora B did that. And so she's she's able to walk the dog around and take the dog out and make sure that the dogs here every day, we have a little bed for blue, and want to see the dog I guess. But for blue in the corner and, and there's a there's a bed in the social workers office, and there's a bed upstairs. So yeah, that was a process we had people that were really interested in. And so those that it just worked out. And blue is is an amazing dog as well. And, and so when we have, and they're both big dogs, they're both bigger dogs. And then we have Bailey, who was a teddy bear. So it's a little tiny dog, and I brought her here one time. And this is the third part, you have to have patience, the dog is a dog, it will go bathroom on the floor. It's not always going to do what you tell it to do. It's it's an animal. So you have to have patience. And that's the that's the last big part is understand that you're going to have to clean up after the dog here and there, you're going to have to make sure there's food, there's water, you have the patience, you have the time to do that, you're also going to have to spend time before school and after school, training that dog. So having the patience is probably the third biggest thing and understanding that everything isn't going to go as you you planned or you thought and then understand that you have to bring the dog, you know, you have to have find that person that that's going to bring them every day, you know, blue Tucker is in here today, because I have a meeting after school and then I have to go to another board meeting. And so I'm not gonna get home till nine o'clock tonight. And that's not fair to my dog. To have him here, tell him I know, he would probably love it, you'd probably roam around and go to the board meeting and, and do all kinds of stuff. But so having that understanding that, you know, it's a lot of time, and understand the person has to understand, you can't always bring the dog the dogs not always going to be here. And that's that we're very fortunate to have two dogs. So So blue is here
today. So yeah, and I imagine that goes hand in hand with the person right? Having insurance a person say imagine whoever the dogs person is, is mostly responsible for like, the feeding and the brakes and everything too. So
yeah, and that's a that's a big thing, right is blue is lease leash trained where Tucker is least trained, but also doesn't need a leash. So outside, I can let blue outside or Tucker outside or any student can let Tucker outside and he'll listen every time to come back every time Louis leach train, so you have to go out there with the leash on and bring them out there. So those are little things that you have to think about as you're going especially if you're going to be in a in an urban area, you have to find a place where that dog can go bathroom, who's going to pick it up. All those types of things. So there's a lot of little things that people don't think about, it's like Christmas morning, I'm gonna get my dog, I'm gonna get my kid dog and then kind of thinking three years down the road, how is this going to work out? So a lot of little little things, but it's all worth it. Because when you see the kids and the interaction, it's absolutely amazing.
Yeah, that's the transitions nicely. I've got a couple last questions for you. So can you tell us about a time when you witnessed a therapy dog have a profound effect in a student's life.
Um, I guess I don't have a really telling story. It's just a bunch of little stories or a bunch of little observations over time. When kids are having a bad day or when a student is crying or you know, something's going on at home. When Tucker blew come lay with them. It's it's one of those things where you, you see it and you don't really understand and you look at the the child and they're petting the dog, and pretty soon, that's all they're thinking about is the dog. And it's just amazing to see, and you see it over and over. And it's not something that I'm going to tell you that oh my goodness, is it changed this person's world or, or life and that's not what you're looking for. I mean, it'd be great if it happened. But realistically, it's it's 1000 little things that you see every day. Even if a kid just walks by and a talker gives a little pet on a pat on the head or Hey, Give me high five Tucker or, or blue or, you know, so those are little things that you know that they're just engaged with the dog and they're engaged with what's going on in a school and you're helping them by just having that dog there. And those are the those are the 1000 little things you see over and over. And we did have one issue one incident where I'm a basketball coach or I was a basketball coach. Now I have too much going on. So I had to walk away from it but we had a student that was having a mini seizure and and we knew that the the the student there's a medical issue, right we understood what was going on. And so she was sitting there and she knows when she He's about to go into a seizure, and Tucker offs. And just he was by me in practice. And also he was gone. And I didn't know what was going on at the time. And Tucker is laying down on this girl's lap and, and she's petting the dog and you know, you know, kind of slowly, you know, kind of going in and out a little bit. And the main assistant coach is sitting right next to me next to her crying. So I stopped practice going over what's going on? She goes, this dog is absolutely amazing. I said, what's going on? And she told me what was going on? That, you know, we had an issue. So I'm like, well, we got a call. Yeah, we got it. You know, I went, I'm in full panic mode. Now, you know? They said, No, will we know what's going on? We haven't understood I already called I texted mom, Mom's coming. And Tucker stayed with this individual until the mom got there. So it was pretty amazing to see. Was it life changing? No, but it was amazing to see what that dog could do. And keeping that student calm. I don't know the research behind it, I just know that it was amazing to see.
I have to imagine, you know, 1000 little things add up over time, right. And even with impaired with all the other programs you're doing to, you know, capture kids hearts student first, you know, those things altogether, I imagined can really transform a student's life. Because, you know, even if all it does is keep them actually interested in education, it keeps them you know, feeling like somebody cares about them, like, long term the effects of that certainly can. So, yeah,
I was, you know, we we talked about horizons right at the beginning, you know, we had 789, kids graduating, and we're up to 2020 to 22, kids graduating, and that's amazing staff out there, it's amazing stuff. But all that stuff they did all the stuff the students did, and the teachers did up there. And that student first approach the dog, the flex labs, the the maker spaces, the food pantry, all played into it, and it was a huge part of it. And, and so bringing that down to this main campus is another big part of it. And we have teachers that are really excited to do it. And just looking at what how we can reach kids. You know, I think that's the biggest thing and, and just being able to say that, the academics is actually the easiest part of teaching standing up there. And teaching is the easiest part teaching, a lot of people forget that you do a lot more as a teacher than just give them a squared plus b squared equals c squared. It's it's the personal connections, it's the motivation. It's the, you know, up all night trying to figure out how to reach this kid in a different way, or changing something up in the special education or do they need extra time? Or, you know, all those little things that, that really make you as a teacher? And then go on beyond that and say, How can we help the student? You know, even further, can we get a food pantry here for kids starving at night, they're not interested in school, for kids going through something at home, they're not interested in school. I mean, if I get a fight with my wife at home, which I never do, because she's always right, I know that. But if I ever did, coming to school would be very difficult. The next day, I would be crabby, I'd be irritated, I'm not going to be as open, I'm not going to want to do as much work. So the same is for a student, a student has a fight with a parent at home or fight with someone at home or something's going on at home that we don't understand. We're never gonna reach that, that that child, we're never going to teach them math that day, or that week or that month or that year. And that's why we end up with gaps and so being able to reach them I'm not saying that's that's the be all end all but it's definitely a start is definitely heading in the right direction. And and we've been so fortunate to have teachers here that understand that went through the capturing kids hearts and reaching a kid capture their hearts, you'll capture their minds and and flip says that over and over and over. And our elementary principals say it over and over Julija, Kino and Matt Hampton are constantly on mute about all these little things. And they have been unbelievable champions for us. They're actually a capturing kids lead school. So they're recognized nationwide. But going over those things with all the all the other stuff that therapy dogs in the food pantries. And in that it's just a big part of a great community and a great school district that I'm very fortunate to
work with. Yeah, it really sounds like you know, it really does. It's a community effort. You know, you've listed so many names, and so many different people and partnerships have helped out. So that's really cool to see. You have time for one last question.
You can ask questions all day.
Well, I would but I'll keep it to one more. So can you tell me about a teacher who has had a positive impact and your life and I know it can be hard to just pick one. But it doesn't have to be your favorite we can acknowledge that so many people have contributed but just someone you know who's you could describe their characteristics and the effect that they had on your life.
And there were so many i i grew up in This area I went to school just down the road at Jeffers High School, Adam township schools and, and there are a lot of teachers that I would look up to and still look up to today and still talk to today. But Priscilla Chanel with is probably the one the one teacher that I have to thank her for just about everything I have. She's, she spent a lot of time working with a struggling student working with a boy that didn't really know how to read that well struggled with wanting to be at school struggled with maybe even how to deal with some of the things that we're going through. And she spent a lot of time working with me teaching me how to read. And she showed me that patience, understanding and just wanting to be that person to help a student is so worth it. She is just an amazing individual. And like I said, there's there's there's a lot more. You know, you have Sherry Norman and Jim Wang and Mike Bender, and Mike Bender was he was a science teacher. And I still don't like science to this day. But Mr. bando was just an absolutely amazing person, because he showed all of us what it was like just to be in touch with students just to be there for students and just to be with students and talk to him on a student level. And so he taught me a lot about just student relationships and, and, you know, I still see him to this day and talk to him for a long time and see, oh, he's doing he's retired, all these people are retired now. I'm getting old. But a lot, you see a lot of educators in this area that just put everything they have into their teaching, and I have a lot down in my building. And it's just amazing to see when they do their job, how great people and, and so I'm so thankful to see that and, and have teachers like that.
Without a doubt, it's challenging work, to capture kids hearts, and bring passion, engagement and empathy into learning at all levels. But with leaders like Joel and Tucker, and blue, and valey, forging our path forward, if there's one thing we're certain of, it said the future is bright. can find our full report and student centered learning in action in the CLK school district at michigan virtual.org/research. You know, someone who's an inspiring Michigan educator who should be featured on our show, send us an email at Bright at Michigan virtual.org to let us know who they are, and why you should. Thank you for joining us for this episode of bright stories of hope and innovation in Michigan classrooms. This podcast is produced by Herbie Gaylord is hosted by me Nikki Herta and shaped by many of our passionate and talented colleagues. Big thanks to Krista green, Holly beleskey parents Wilkerson, Anna Boyer, Sarah Hill, and Brandon Battista for their contributions to this episode. Bright is brought to you in part by Meemic insurance, insuring the educational community for more than 70 years. teachers and school employees visit meemic.com/quote to see how much you can save. The bright podcast is made possible by Michigan Virtual, a nonprofit organization that's leading and collaborating build learning environments for tomorrow. Education is changing faster than ever. Discover new models and resources to move learning forward at your school at Michigan virtual.org