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Brooke Visits New Students

September 9, 2020

It’s not just students who are getting used to their new online classrooms. One local guidance counselor is reaching out to her students in a creative way with the help of a four-legged friend.

Therapy dog Brooke has been helping students at Monac Elementary School for 12 years, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year is looking a little different.

Melanie Robinson has been a counselor at the school for 12 years with Brooke by her side for two. The pair typically visits each classroom every other week for a special lesson. But because Monac is starting the school year online, Robinson is taking a unique approach to welcome new students that she’ll be working with virtually until it’s safe to be back in school: a front yard meeting with masks, gift bags and of course Brooke herself. “She is an immediate attraction and they’re instantly drawn to her,” Robinson said. “She’s very calm, she’s very soft and they instantly will talk to her even if they’re not comfortable talking with an adult.” Robinson says forming an in-person bond with her students is important especially with more of them feeling the isolation of distance learning.

“They are able to feel your energy, put a face to a name, they get to meet and pet Brooke, which is an instant, immediate friend that they have, that they know when they walk into the building for the first time.”

On Thursday, it’s second grader Khai. Not only is she new to Monac but to the entire Washington Local Schools district.

Her mom Kristal Barham says the mobile meeting will help her daughter open up when schools do. “Just to have an adult there that she now feels comfortable with—and I just think the therapy dog is an extra touch, to have a dog that she can go to and can just help her and soothe her and calm her down,” Barham said. And it’s reassuring for Barham herself too.

“I think her coming, me actually being able to talk to the teacher, actually see the therapy dog, I think it really makes me feel a lot more comfortable with Khai starting.”

Monac Elementary will reevaluate the status of the coronavirus in October to determine if the school can start hybrid learning.

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