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Teachers of the Month: Stephanie Mullins and Keri Crowe

Teachers implementing the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum are featured in this column. This month, two teachers – Stephanie Mullins and Keri Crowe – are sharing the spotlight! Both are from Ponderosa Elementary School in Boyd County, Kentucky, and were nominated by Norma Meek, curriculum events coordinator at the district and senior associate at Yale21C.

Ponderosa Elementary School was the first school to pilot the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum, starting in the Fall of 2010. Both Stephanie and Keri were teaching kindergarten at the time. Keri continued implementation this year with a new group of kindergartners. Stephanie is now using it with second graders. "I have truly enjoyed implementing the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum with my second grade group," said Stephanie. "They...really get into the Curriculum because they take everything so seriously and are very empathetic at this age."

In addition to implementing the Curriculum in their own classrooms, Keri and Stephanie have been a resource to other teachers in the building, especially those in the upper primary grades who have been pilot-testing grades 4-5 of the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum.

Asked about the impact the Curriculum has had, Stephanie told us: "I would say two of the most important outcomes of the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum for my second grade students have been: 1) the awareness it brings – meaning they don't just think about themselves, they are beginning to consider the consequences of the choices people make, which is pretty profound for seven and eight year olds; and 2) the students have definitely become more cooperative and tolerant of each other's differences." There were other outcomes as well: "As a kindergarten teacher the two most important outcomes I saw were 1) students began to express their feelings in an appropriate way – it gave many of them an emotional voice-particularly those who did not get emotional nurturing in the home; and 2) students started to develop empathy first for shelter animals but then many of them began to transfer it to others in the class."

Both teachers and Norma report that the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum reaches beyond individual classrooms. Ponderosa Elementary is well known for its choreographed dance - Walkin' the Dog - which has captured the interest of the entire school and community.

Parents especially have embraced the whole Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum and many of them came out to watch the taping of the school-wide "Walkin' the Dog" performance.

"The kids love [the dance] too," according to Keri and Stephanie, "and we do it all the time! Our high school basketball coach somehow heard about the dance and had us come to perform it as half-time entertainment for opening day, then we performed it for Norma Meek's district-wide 'Spotlight on our Families' night. What fun!!"

Stephanie, Keri, and Norma will be presenting workshops on the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum at the July National Conference in Louisville, KY. To find out more about the conference, which will include a visit by the Animal League's Mobile Adoption Van featuring local pets for adoption, click here.

To view Ponderosa's Walkin' The Dog dance, click here.

See More Teacher of the Month Stories