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Teacher of the Month: Aimee McKinney

In October of 2009, Aimee McKinney and her newly rescued dog, Gracie, started working in the Loudoun County Public Schools through an organization called paws4people™. The mission of the paws4peopleTM foundation is to enhance the lives of special and regular education students, as well as senior citizens and the seriously ill or disabled, by utilizing the "special powers" of canine companionship.

Gracie was certified as an Educational Assistance Dog in early 2010 and began working in three special education classrooms in Arcola Elementary School in Virginia, including children with Autism. While the therapeutic visits were wonderful and fun for the children, Aimee was looking for a more formalized program that would help the students to gain additional benefits from working with Gracie; she found what she was looking for in the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum.

In the spring of 2010, Aimee began working with the Pet Savers Foundation and Yale 21C to implement the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum in the school. Using Gracie as a prop for the students to feel, touch and observe helped to enhance the instructional materials provided by the Curriculum.

Aimee worked with the special education teachers to modify the Curriculum to meet the needs of their students. Some examples of those modifications include:

  • Using a variety of visuals (including clip art and Boardmaker) to show different feelings and emotions;
  • Using Gracie to show how we are alike and how being different is okay; and
  • Doing more “hands on” applications of the lessons.

Children interacted with Gracie during the lessons, which brought fun, tactile opportunities to the students. The Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum has been very successful at Arcola Elementary School. This year Aimee is extending the implementation if the Curriculum to include another school within Loudoun County, Buffalo Trail Elementary School.

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