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Teacher of the Month: Natalie Horton

Teachers implementing the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum are featured in this column. This month’s feature is Natalie Horton, M. Ed., lead Mutt-i-grees® Teacher at two school districts in Van Buren County, Arkansas. Deb Swink, Special Education Director for Van Buren County school districts – Clinton, Shirley and Southside – has taken a lead role in pilot testing the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum. Deb is also a trained Mutt-i-grees® Master Teacher and frequently provides Mutt-i-grees® orientation and other training sessions. We asked Deb to interview Natalie for the Feature page.

Natalie, can you describe your role with the Mutt-i-grees® curriculum?

I am the lead Mutt-i-grees® teacher for Shirley and Southside Schools. I teach classes as well as work with the teachers and school counselors to help them incorporate the curriculum into their daily lesson plans.

How long have you been in this role and what did you do previously?

I have been working in the role as lead Mutt-i-grees® teacher since the spring semester of the 2009-2010 school year; however, I have been working with Van Buren County School Based Mental Health since 2004. I also have experience teaching upper elementary as well as secondary students.

How many classrooms do you work with on Mutt-i-grees®?

I work directly with eleven classes and will be adding several classes for the spring semester.

What aspect of Mutt-i-grees® do you feel is especially attractive to students?

The students love the incorporation of the dogs into the curriculum. My students have had many experiences with dogs and can draw from those experiences when we are learning a new skill. With training as a school counselor I recognize how valuable that is compared to any other social-emotional curriculum.

What aspect of the Mutt-i-grees® do you feel is attractive to teachers?

The teachers really appreciate the social-emotional skills that are taught that can be carried over into their everyday classroom setting. The third grade teachers like the ability to teach a lesson that also includes advanced vocabulary, which can be practiced in their journal writing time. In addition, the teachers have found that the lessons incorporate several subject areas and can be tied in with the Arkansas Standards of Learning.

In some communities, there are extensive community outreach activities with Mutt-i-grees® is that the same in your community?

Yes, we have had involvement in the community with the development of our “Calling Mutt-i-gree” video. We have a working relationship with local veterinarians, police canine handlers, and local animal protection leagues in the hope to have them in our schools to educate our students on the importance of following safe procedures when dealing with stray dogs as well as the importance of adopting from our local shelters. We have a Mutt-i-grees® Luncheon planned for mid- December for our community leaders which will include a “thank you” for their involvement and a time to educate our community about the curriculum.

Natalie Horton and her sons
Brady and Rhett, with their newly adopted Mutt-i-gree, Speedy. Natalie and her boys wrote the song and lyric for Calling Muttigree.

Deb Swink, Director Special Education and Mutt-i-grees® Master Teacher

See More Teacher of the Month Stories