A new face will soon be seen around Hillcrest Primary and Leads Charter School in Shawano, as they welcome Grace to the district.
Grace is a black lab owned by Hillcrest teacher Curt Preston and earlier this week was approved by the Shawano School Board to be used as a therapy dog.
“If a student is having a rough day and could use some time petting a dog and getting some love and attention from the dog, then that could be a case where we could have the student and Grace meet,” explained Hillcrest Principal Troy Edwards. “It could be the loss of a parent, a grandparent, a loss of a pet, having some attention from Grace would help.”
Grace’s owner, Curt Preston, believes that this is a position that Grace will excel at.
“She just goes with the flow, loves people, is very intelligent, and adjusts well to different situations,” Preston said of Grace. “It’s a perfect personality to bring into a school with lots of kids and lots of different unpredictable personalities.”
Grace has many talents and abilities, something Principal Edwards says the school plans to utilize.
“Another thing that we’re planning on using Grace for down the road is listening to students read,” Edwards said. “There’s lots of stuff out there about the research of just having the dog listen to [the children] read, they are more apt to read and more open to that. There’s just a ton of research out there and different options that we can work towards with Grace.”
Not just any dog is accepted to be used as a therapy dog for the school. In order to be approved, Preston said Grace had to pass a series of tests, which he said she completed with flying colors. Grace’s new role is something Preston is looking forward to.
“She just lays around here at home, so she might as well come to work with me and have even more of a purpose in life,” said Preston. “That’s gratifying as well.”
The plan for the school is to acclimate Grace slowly to the school and progress from there. It’s being planned that Grace stay with Mrs. Kathy Moeller, a student centered coach at Hillcrest, who also owns labs. They’ll then retrieve Grace from the classroom as she’s needed for the day.
Therapy dogs in schools are starting to become more common occurance, but in the area, Shawano will be one of the first.