MEET THE TEACHER: CARLA FOY
Carla Foy grew up in Bethlehem, PA. Her father was an airline pilot, and her mother owns a used/rare bookstore called The Old Library Bookshop. She has always loved children and teaching, and she was encouraged by her grandmother to pursue education as a career. Before coming to Council Rock, she taught in a Catholic school in Princeton, NJ, and a year in Trenton, NJ. She has been at Richboro Elementary for 26 years.
Carla attended Rider University for both her undergrad and graduate degrees. When Carla was studying for her Master’s in Elementary Counseling, she had a vision of the impact that therapy animals could have in school classrooms. This led her to doing her thesis on this topic. In her research she discovered massive documentation that proved how valuable it was for children to interact with animals, especially when paired with learning. Now that Carla is a host teacher for one of our Nor’wester therapy dogs, she knows that having an animal in her classroom is beyond “cute and fun.” It is profoundly powerful.
Carla shared a story with us about a student she had in her classroom one year when Wendi Huttner and her dog Wes were visiting:
“I once had a little boy in my class named *S* who had a multitude of learning and behavior problems. He had an autistic brother at home who seemed to get all the attention that *S* so desperately needed. *S* lacked social skills, and so most of his classmates shunned him. He had no friends. As a teacher I tried all the interventions I thought would be most beneficial. Nothing seemed to help. When our therapy dog, Wes, started his visits, I began to notice a change in *S*. He worked harder to read more fluently, especially on Mondays when he knew Wes was coming. With this change, the students started to accept *S*, and he began making a few friends. At the end of the school year *S* wrote a note to Wes.
“Dear Wes, thank you for coming to our class. When I read to you, you were the only one who didn’t laugh at me when I got stuck on a word. I read better now because of you. Please don’t leave us.
Your Friend, *S*.”
Carla recalls, “As a teacher who was an observer of all this, I cry every time I read *S’s* letter. He got the attention and love he wasn’t getting at home, and it changed him in a million ways.”
IDEAS FROM CARLA:
- I keep a basket of dog books from which students can choose for independent reading. I have “book talked” these books, or we’ve read them together as a class. These books are in great demand. Sometimes a student will request that a book be included in the basket. If the book is appropriate and centered around dogs, I will honor the request.
- We have a blog on my class webpage. When students are reading independently, they may come across a book they would like to read to our therapy dog. The blog is a place for them to share the title and the reason why they want to share it with our dog.
- I also use golden tokens I got from the Crayola Factory with students who have behavior issues. They can earn golden tokens for extra time with our therapy dog.
- A terrific website for teachers, parents, and kids is James Patterson’s readkiddoread.com . . . dedicated to making kids readers for life!
Note: The Nor’wester Therapy Dogs organization encourages sharing among our host teachers of ideas and lessons which have been successfully implemented to maximize the impact of therapy dogs in the classroom.
In addition to being a creative host teacher, Carla has also jumped in as a volunteer when the organization does community events. She has supported us in several fund-raising dog walks and more recently has served as scheduling coordinator for our booth at Tyler Park’s Crafts in the Meadow venue. The Nor’wester Therapy Dogs organization is truly fortunate to have Carla as part of our team. Carla lives in Ivyland with her three children: Valerie, John, and Kelly. Chip, their 6-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever, is a much loved member of their family. “I can’t imagine a home without a dog,” says Carla . . . and we know she feels the same way about her classroom.