October 2017 Winner: Heather Stern (North Woods International Elementary School)

An update from Heather…

Thanks to SOUP and the LPEF, we were able to raise almost $10,000 to support Sammie’s training.  Sammie is an Educational Facility Dog (a school service dog).  Her role is greatly different than a 1:1 service dog.  As a 1:1 service dog, the dog’s role is to save it’s person’s life.  Sammie is not assigned to one person.  She works generally in a special education classroom.  The students who receives services in this room have an emotional-behavioral disability.   Sammie has completed her training with Retrieving Freedom, Inc (RFI) and now we consult when we need support or suggestions for new tasks she needs to learn.

At the beginning of the year, Scott, from RFI, came to North Woods to teach all the students at North Woods about service dogs, as part of the training plan for Sammie.  Scott taught the students how important a service dog’s job is.  The kids were also taught to always ask to pet a dog.  Even though Sammie’s role is different than a traditional service dog, she wears a vest at school to show she is working.  

Sammie’s day begins by greeting the students as they arrive to the classroom to check in for the day.  Typically 1-2 students will ask to lay with her.  These couple students sit or lay with her on the floor.  After the students transitions to their rooms for morning meetings, Sammie’s schedules varies day by day.  Her schedule is based on the students’ needs.  Some days she hangs out in my classroom and supports breaks for students who come in, taking a break from learning and regrouping.  Other days, she needs to go to classrooms to support select students who need her the most.  When she is in the room, she will stay by the assigned student and help him stay calm and focused in the classroom setting.  

Each day she gets to take off her vest and play with the students at recess.  She will play ball with anyone that will throw it to her.  And like most dogs, she also likes to play chase.  The students love the unstructured time with her and have all become accustom to her presence on the playground.

Sammie even attends school when I am out of the building.  I drop her off in the morning and she will work with a general education classroom for the day.  She fits right into all classes that she enters.  Initially it was a distraction as everyone was excited to see Sammie.  Now, she is a part of the staff.  The kids know she has a job to do and they have a job to do as well.  

The building atmosphere is different this year.  Sammie brings a smile to everyone’s face and has already taught the students so much about being respectful, responsible and safe.  She helps calm students down by sitting with them on a bench made especially for her.  

Thanks again for SOUP and the community’s support on this project.  We are so thankful to have Sammie as part of our staff!