Teacher of the Month: Catherine Russo
Teachers implementing the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum are featured in this column. This month’s Featured Teacher, Catherine Russo, is a fifth grade language arts and social studies teacher at Imagine Schools Chancellor Campus in Boynton Beach, FL.
Mrs. Russo, a former writer and editor, has found it easy to implement lessons into her class time once a week and notes that both students and parents have expressed their enthusiasm for Mutt-i-grees®. She says, “The students’ excitement is very evident – from their enjoyment during the activities to their positive interactions during discussions. Parents have told me how glad they are that their children are learning things like proper communication skills, empathy, and compassion in a fun and engaging way.”
Mrs. Russo shared this email she received from a parent:
Bravo to whomever brought the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum to Chancellor. This sounds like an amazing approach to discuss such important and valuable topics. Promoting appreciation for their individual qualities and acceptance of individual diversity is so desperately needed, especially at this age. Being comfortable in one’s own skin and being committed to your principles is difficult at any age.
Mrs. Russo praises the Curriculum for providing students with the opportunity to voice their opinions and their own experiences. She explains that it’s nearly impossible to allow every student to talk about a subject during regular instruction, but during Mutt-i-grees® time she makes a point to let everyone be heard as much as possible. She also believes the Curriculum opens new doors for discussions about topics not usually spoken about (i.e. how to compliment others, the importance of thinking decisions through).
Mrs. Russo shared her students’ favorite Mutt-i-grees® activity:
Students were divided into groups and some were assigned a “family” (mom, dad, kids, and no pets; an elderly couple; a single mom with one child, etc.) and other students were stationed at computers as “shelter employees.” Each family had to come up with the type of dog or cat that would be a good fit for their home and discuss their choice with an employee who had prepared a list of questions. The employees showed them the pets they thought best for them on North Shore Animal League’s website and, once a match was made, the families created a list of items they would need to purchase to take care of the pet and wrote a few sentences on what actions they would need to take to be responsible pet owners. The employees wrote a reflection of how it made them feel to find homes for those homeless pets.
Mrs. Russo was so touched by her students’ responses! Her students also set a goal to raise money for a local animal shelter and North Shore Animal League and so far they have raised $400! Mrs. Russo praised her students for being incredibly generous with their own money and having proven their commitment to fundraising.