Teachers are often inspired by their students. It’s what keeps us going on the hard days. Most of the time we have a couple of students, current or previous, that stay with us and are the reason we come to work every day. Being a special education teacher means that I get to work with kids for many years, sometimes up to 6 years in a row. I have had what I call my “epiphanies” twice in my teaching career. These are ideas that shake me to my core and make me take action faster and more furiously than usual. When epiphanies strike I can’t seem to help myself and I go full steam ahead, it’s nearly impossible to slow me down, just ask my co-workers.
My first epiphay happened about 7 years ago when the first iPad came out that had an app that would allow my students at the time to communicate. The kids I was working with were non-verbal and we were using velcro and picture cards so this was a HUGE improvement and really cutting edge to say the least. I was ecstatic and relentless. I wrote a $25,000 grant and was given iPads and the app, Proloquo2Go, for every student in my program ages K-21. It changed everything and is still one of my biggest accomplishments of my career.
My second epiphany happened in February 2017. I was reading a persuasive piece by one of my students who HATES writing with a searing passion. She put together all the reasons why dogs make the best pet. This girl is a fearful, angry, “walls-up-all-the-time” kind of girl. I’ve worked with her for two years and she still snarls at me when I say good morning with my cheery disposition. Despite her best efforts, she hasn’t been able to shake me off yet. But, she wrote a piece about a dog bringing joy, happiness and comfort. I honestly didn’t think she knew what these three feelings were. I was so moved and so proud and it was so persuasive I wanted to get her a dog right then and there. Later that day I was attempting to calm down another one of my students who was enraged and frustrated and screaming in fury. This little 9 year old had his dad walk out of his life and take their family dog with him. He was irate and confused as to why he couldn’t see his dad or his dog anymore. Again, with a bleeding heart, I wanted to have his dog at school with us right then to bring him comfort. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…..Hough needs a therapy dog!!
Most principals would look at a teacher of theirs who just busted through their door and yelled “Steve, can we PLEASE get Hough a therapy dog?????!!!!!!” like they were a crazy person. However, because my principal knows me so well and knows that once I get an idea I go full steam ahead, he was more polite and agreed to look into it. He really is the best in the business, I can’t tell you how many times he has humored me. It was a crazy day, like every other day at Hough, but he said lets see! We looked at the district policies that day and he made a few phone calls immediately to other schools that have teachers who I had heard brought their dogs to school. By the next day we had looked at everything and it looked like it was totally doable! I spent that weekend researching everything I could and getting information on how to find a good company, what it would cost, how long it would take and any other details I could find. Turns out there was some great research about successfully implementing a therapy dog into schools and the benefits are super impressive. I compiled the information and research then created a proposal to the Hough Foundation for funding. On February 24th, 2017, three weeks after my inspiration, the board approved my proposal. We were getting a therapy dog for Hough Elementary School!!
Teddybear Goldendoodles found us our sweet baby girl Suzie Q White by looking at temperaments and meeting our needs for a school setting. The next step was to name this sweet love. I figured if I would be in charge of cleaning up after her I would have to have some say in what we named her so I gave the school 4 options and the entire school voted on her name. My name inspirations came from my all time favorite book series, Harry Potter. The students were able to choose from: Luna, Tonks, Ruby or Poppy. Luna won by a landslide so we have sweet Luna as our newest addition to the Hough Hawks.
Luna has been going through the DoodlePrep training school for the past 16 weeks. It’s been amazing to watch her grow every week in her training videos. The students at school were given the opportunity to watch Luna in training on a weekly basis to see her grow and how the trainer has worked with her. Everyday I get asked questions about her favorite toy, where she likes to play, does she like to cuddle, WHEN IS SHE COMING!!!???
We are hoping to be able to share Luna’s journey with our Hough community through this blog along with Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. She is going to create such an incredible culture at Hough. I can’t wait to welcome Luna to Vancouver, WA on July 7th. More to come after she arrives so hold tight!!