It’s a Bear! It’s a teacher! It’s a four-legged tutor!

Today is one of my proudest moments as a teacher.  I am very modest about my teaching but today I am very proud of the job I do!  

Two years ago I was put in touch with a lady who owns a llama farm.  She had a special llama named Pearl.  Pearl the llama is a certified therapy animal.  She is trained to not spit or kick.  The spitting was a big concern, but I was more worried about the kicking because I was on the wrong end of an untamed llama’s foot while visiting Ecuador.  But I digress.  Pearl came to visit the kindergartners and Pearl adopted us as our favorite students.  Pearl returned to visit us this to help us celebrate Read for the Record day.  My students were convinced that Pearl was Llama Llama from the Llama Llama books.  Pearl even gifted us her grand champion ribbon from a contest she won.  I just want to say that PEARL ROCKS!  It’s OK to be jealous of our friend Pearl!  

Following Pearl’s first visit,  I received a call from a lady who had a dog who had just been certified as a therapy animal and they were looking for a volunteer opportunity.  I told her I had been looking for a therapy dog for my classroom.  It was a perfect match.

I had read about reading dogs and read the benefits of having a reading dog.  It boosts the confidence of young readers, it excites them about books and reading and it helps students develop into fluent readers.  And it’s a lot of fun.  I had no idea how to go about finding a therapy dog but thanks to Pearl the llama, my class now had our own reading buddy, Bear the dog!  Bear has been coming to my class once a week for two years.   During his visits, each child gets a turn to read two books of their choice from their book bags.  They also get to give Bear a treat.  I think this is the highlight of their time with Bear.  They love when he licks them!  And Bear loves school.  Bear’s owner tells me how excited Bear gets when he hears the words, “You want to go to school?”  Bear even came to our end of the year to help us celebrate our success.  

I credit Bear with helping my students last year and this year become much better readers.  His visits really build their love and excitement for reading.  I love that my students have had this opportunity that most students don’t get.  It’s such a powerful experience for them.

Last week one of the local tv stations spent an hour in my classroom working on a story about Bear.  I had to wear a microphone for the entire hour.  It’s a little unnerving to have everything you say for an hour recorded.  The story about Bear and my students aired tonight.  As we watched (at a restaurant during dinner!)  I was so proud of my students and so thankful to have Bear.  You can watch the story if you click on the link!  


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