A program at St. John Neumann School in Farragut was featured in the August-September issue of Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine.
St. John Neumann is the first Catholic school in East Tennessee to be a part of HABIT (Human Animal Bond in Tennessee), a nonprofit program of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, the article stated.
The initiative for the program came from fourth-grade teacher Vicki McKernan, who had experienced HABIT while teaching in a public school. She experienced the benefits of the human/animal bond in the classroom through Keric, a Labrador–golden retriever cross. When Ms. McKernan came to SJNS, Keric came with her. Five more dogs are now part of the program at the school, the article stated.
At SJNS, dogs make weekly visits to two kindergarten classes, one third-grade class, and one fifth-grade class. Another dog spends three days a week in the office of special services teacher Bridget Everett, who is also his owner.
In a classroom, the dogs provide a sense of security with their friendly, non-judgmental presence. In almost every instance, scholastic improvement can be noted, the article stated. Students read out loud to the dogs, and reading at every level has improved with the presence of the HABIT dogs.