Story by Bella Wexler
Any student or teacher who started classes again this Fall would agree, school looks quite different than it has in the past. With so many districts using some form of online learning, we’ve gotten used to our bedrooms becoming our classrooms. Recently, many have noticed yet another shift in the educational atmosphere: pets are becoming classmates, too!
They’re not always the most helpful classroom companions as they walk across our keyboards and wait until we unmute ourselves to start barking. But, several Tucsonan students and instructors alike have found these new students to be the silver linings we all need while navigating life through a screen. In honor of all the snuggling, yowling, and video-bombing these new members have contributed to our academic communities, it seems high time we give a few of them some recognition.
To start us off, we have the newest of the new students: Henry! According to Maria Cazzato, a member of Henry’s adoptive family and an eleventh-grade student at Catalina Foothills High School, Henry is known for being “very calm and friendly”. Although he is brand new to the family, he has already made many appearances in the background of Maria’s classes, even stealing the spotlight during her online club meetings! Being four years old and a rescued stray through Desert Labrador Rescue, at-home classes are definitely new to him. Luckily, Maria has found that the extra time at home makes this the ideal time to bring him into the family since “there’s always someone home to make sure he’s doing okay”. After months of social distancing, “it’s nice having company all day”, she notes. Maria doesn’t mind when he pops in to say hi during class, either. After all, with his shiny yellow fur and ear-to-ear grin, who could resist? As Maria puts it, “dogs are the best possible distractions!”
But Henry isn’t the only pet gaining some publicity at school. Over at Amphi Academy Online, 3rd grader, Rowan Hawkins has earned a reputation for her many furry, hairy, and scaly classmates! From Mousse the dog and Phantom the cat to Monsoon the desert hairy scorpion and Gojira the rescued savannah monitor, it’s safe to say that Rowan’s at-home classroom is pretty packed. Yet, those four pets barely scratch the surface. There’s also Mune the Madrean alligator lizard, Star Sparkle the tarantula, Race the Kenyan sand boa, Fuego the bearded dragon, and “a bunch of others”, Rowan says. Now that school is online, Rowan enjoys spending more time with her many pets and even showing them off during meetings. “Sometimes they’re helpful because I get to share with the class and teach them about the animals,” Rowan says. Each of them has a very distinct personality that shines through in class. For example, Phantom likes to sleep all day, but Star Sparkle is quite active. She even “does a little dance” whenever she eats lunch. Gojira is one of the more shy students known for cautiously flicking out her tongue “to smell and taste at the same time”! Needless to say, this at-home class contains a myriad of unique characters that show Rowan the bright side of online learning.
Last but certainly not least, we cannot forget to recognize the four-legged friends who have literally taken over the role of “teacher’s pet”. One such example is Alberto Martin’s cat, Luna. Mr. Martin is a statistics teacher at Catalina Foothills High School and Luna is a nine-year-old “little spaz” who has made it a habit to show off her unique meow while Mr. Martin is teaching. According to him, Luna didn’t get enough vocalization practice as a kitten which has resulted in her meow sounding like “more of a mix between a chirp and a yowl”. Luna is super friendly and very active in class. “She will always poke her head into view and meow at the students,” Mr. Martin says. Even though her presence is more of a distraction than anything else, her frequent visits always make students smile. She keeps a strict school schedule, too. After eating, she “will zoom around the apartment and vocalize a lot” to burn off some steam before settling down “into her little nook” for a nap. She seems to be adjusting well to online learning as Mr. Martin has noticed her climb into his lap during class more when in the past she disliked being held. Playing with her between classes has helped Mr. Martin to relax as well. All around, everyone is pretty glad to have Luna’s help teaching class.
The demands of teaching and learning through a screen have posed new challenges for everyone. Seeing Henry’s wet nose pop into Maria’s video call frame, learning from Rowan’s presentations about Star Sparkle, Fuego, and countless others, and hearing Luna’s quirky “meow’s” interject Mr. Martin’s lessons all add a bit of joy at a time when we need it most. So, thank you to all of the pets that have joined our classes and even stolen the show. We’ll be sure to save you all a spot in the yearbook!