Meet Charlie. Charlie is the classroom pet at the Success Center in the Danville Community School District. Not only does Charlie have quite the personality, but he also provides quite an experience for the students who interact with him.
Ms. Krekel, the At-Risk teacher/coordinator for the district, brought Charlie to the Success Center over two and half years ago thanks to the Pets in the Classroom grant program, and he has become a welcoming face to the students:
“The kids in my room are K-12, so there are different ages in and out all of the time,” commented Krekel. “Charlie has been utilized as an ice breaker for new kids in my room who might be scared, unsure, or untrusting of someone new in their life (me as a teacher), and often acts as a de-stresser if you will for kids who need a break from stress at school or in their lives.”
With students of varying ages being in the Success Center, Charlie provides the students with something they can bond over and be proud of:
“My kids of all ages view him as something they can connect with and many of them do not have pets at home,” said Krekel. “I try to make my room one where the kids always feel welcomed and loved no matter their past, grades, status, etc. Charlie is just one more way for me to do that. It has been cool to see kids who come into my room who are students of the school but not necessarily ones that I work with and hear them be excited and inquisitive about Charlie. It is in these instances that I get to see my students spring into action “introducing” Charlie and explaining things about him and how he’s “our” dragon. Their spirits seem to lift when he is in our room, and they have such positive interactions when they are around him and dealing with him that they might not normally have otherwise.”
But the benefits of having Charlie in the classroom don’t end there, as Ms. Krekel will attest:
“Charlie has impacted my kids in so many ways. From teaching responsibility when they have to help me do things for him (feed him, change things in his cage, etc.) to teaching them empathy and kind-heartedness to accept him as all of ours. I guess the question is not necessarily what has he done for our room, but maybe what HASN’T he done for my room and my students.”