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First Building BlocksGlen Avon preschool students9/20/2022 7:00:00 AM ​ In Jurupa Unified, the preschool experience can be foundational for students as they begin their educational journeys. “Preschool [provides] our youngest learners with an opportunity to be exposed to the classroom environment,” shared Katrina Brooks, Coordinator for Early Childhood Education. “That way they are prepared for either entry into transitional kindergarten or kindergarten.” With instruction and guidance from teachers, preschool students learn early educational concepts, how to socialize and share materials, and how to follow a routine. They practice problem-solving and processing emotions in a healthy way. “It's amazing from day one to the end of the year [how much they grow],” said Iris McClatchy, Head Start teacher at Glen Avon Elementary. JUSD’s Pre-K School Readiness Center supports the district’s Head Start and preschool programs. Currently, there are ten Head Start classrooms and 12 preschool classrooms. “We provide services to children that are three and four years old,” shared Ms. Brooks. “Those services are provided at the Pre-K School Readiness Center as well as at different elementary campuses throughout the district.” Recently, new furniture has helped classrooms better meet students' educational needs. “It really supports our curriculum,” said Debi Young, preschool teacher at Sunnyslope Elementary. Upgrades to the home area of the classroom are especially popular with students, with well-crafted furniture and colorful accessories making pretend play seem more real. Students can “stock” the refrigerator, “cook” on the stovetop, “set the table" for a family meal, and “load” laundry into the washer and dryer. “We're getting to introduce so many more materials in a better way,” shared Ms. Young. “We’re able to create a more [home-like] environment. We can put things in there…that they see in their home.” Even better, the furniture and related materials are child-size, making them appropriately accessible for tiny learners. “That's one thing that's working for our program,” said Ms. McClatchy. “Honestly, the local hangout is the home living area.” ​ Beyond the home area, new cubbies provide more space for jackets, water bottles, and other personal items brought from home. Updated storage makes organization and clean-up easier. Activity stations encourage creativity and introduce exciting learning challenges. In Glen Avon’s classroom, a new projector helps Ms. McClatchy expand her lessons with the aid of technology. “The children blossom when they come in,” said Ms. McClatchy. “They’re learning to make friends. They’re following routines. They’re exploring.” From the outside, preschool may appear as little more than playtime. But teachers like Ms. McClatchy and Ms. Young know that through social play, students learn about themselves and their physical abilities; about working with others; and what it means to inhabit a school environment. “Parents are the first teachers. Families are the first teachers. But we lay the foundation,” said Ms. Young. “We want to provide a really firm and whole cement slab with no cracks. Then as they [grow] up, they’re able to build a house and have a very sturdy house.” For more information about JUSD preschool, please visit the Pre-K School Readiness Center website​ .
Setting up SkillsRHS volleyball player preparing to serve9/20/2022 7:00:00 AM ​ ​ This season is an exciting new beginning for all three high school girls volleyball teams. Rubidoux, Patriot, and Jurupa Valley High School are all showing off their new coaches and skills out on the court. Rubidoux Falcons gained Victor Leano, Jurupa Jaguars acquired Liana Manū, and Patriot Warriors obtained Tylia Dixon. Guiding and coaching each team comes with its own skills needed to pass on to the girls. Their different methods of teaching have led to the girls improving and even teaching their coaches a thing or two. “I’m learning every day. It’s been a fun season,” said Coach Leano. “I am very lucky at Rubidoux. A lot of our girls are ASB, high academic kids. They take what they learn in the sport into their real lives every day, in the classroom, [and] in the community.” The players’ commitment to volleyball has taught them skills that have been applicable to other aspects of their lives. “Being able to be outspoken, we have been more communicative towards our teachers and in getting jobs. Volleyball has improved our communication skills,” said Vivien Guerrero, co-captain of the Rubidoux’s girls volleyball team. Martina Karako, co-captain for Patriot’s girls volleyball team can also relate, “[Working together and communication] transferred over. It's the same idea. Taking on a leadership role has helped me in group projects and assignments. It has helped me be more vocal.” Similarly, Coach Dixon has also taken away several new skills from her girls on the court. “There are different things that I see [now], that I didn't see when I was actually playing on the court,” Coach Dixon said. Watching from the sidelines, coaching has taught her about patience and understanding in order to be a good leader for the girls on and off the court. ​ Once a player herself at Jurupa Valley High School, Coach Manū returned to lead the girls volleyball team this season. JVHS has an all-new Varsity team with the exception of the returning team captains, Daisy Delgado and Kailani Koneferenisi. This year, the girls have grown to be a tight family. The team has a closer connection with each other, making it easier to play. ​ Coach Manū wants to pass it forward to her ‘Lady Jags’ because of her time as one when she was a student. “I know what impact [volleyball] had on my life and so I'm here to give back to these girls. I was once in their position and I'm super happy to continue on the Lady Jag legacy,” She said. Volleyball is not all fun and games though. The team puts in the dedication and time to keep improving. “You have to work for what you get. Hard work pays off,” said Daisy.
Two is Better than OneWest Riverside DI class9/20/2022 7:00:00 AM ​ West Riverside Elementary is the latest JUSD school to adopt the Dual Immersion (DI) program. The district’s six DI schools integrate high levels of proficiency in bilingualism and multicultural competency. Dual Immersion programs at JUSD continue to meet the community's needs. Currently, the program at West Riverside is open for transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students. As the current students move up grade levels, the program will grow until they promote to 6th grade. They will then have the opportunity to continue at Jurupa Middle School and Patriot High School. Upon successful completion of the program through high school, students will be awarded a Seal of Biliteracy on their High School diplomas, demonstrating that they are bilingual in both Spanish and English. Elsa Buenrostro, transitional kindergarten teacher, feels very fortunate to be able to teach in the DI program at West Riverside. “I absolutely love teaching in Spanish. [My students] are very young, they're four years old, and I enjoy speaking to them in Spanish,” she said. Ms. Buenrostro volunteered to teach in the program after teaching in English for many years. Learning a new language is more feasible when students are very young in comparison to older students or even adults. Karla Zermeño, a first-year kindergarten bilingual teacher, believes that her job as a teacher is to set the foundation for students to have the skills to learn both languages to the fullest extent. “You can't build huge skyscrapers without the right foundation… That's what I am doing for them right now. Going back to the basics, the fundamentals of the language,” said Ms. Zermeño about her goals for her soon-to-be bilingual kindergarteners. Expanding this Dual Immersion program in an elementary school is also laying the needed foundation for more students to enroll and continue in the program until graduation. ​ This program is not only beneficial to students who want to learn Spanish as a second language, but also to students whose first language is Spanish. Martha Gomez, Director of Language Services, had this to say about the new Dual Language Immersion program at West Riverside Elementary School “It is an additive program that allows all students to keep their primary language and add a second one. Our community has known and valued this program and has been asking for more schools to offer the program.” Ms. Buenrostro also believes that Dual Immersion not only benefits JUSD students but also the community. “It will give [our students] a great opportunity to communicate with our community because a large part of them speak Spanish and to be able to speak, read, and write in both languages is essential here,” she said. To learn more about the Dual Immersion program at JUSD, please visit the district's Dual Immersion webpage​ .
Making HistoryAnthony Gomez holding his certificate beside Dr. Hansen8/23/2022 7:00:00 AM ​ This May, Dr. Edwin Gomez, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, visited Anthony Gomez in his classroom to announce that the dual immersion social studies teacher is a 2023 Riverside County Teacher of the Year. “I’ve thought about this day as a possibility, and for everybody to be here, today, it is overwhelming,” said the Jurupa Middle teacher. Also there to witness the announcement were Mr. Gomez’s students, his family, and JUSD Superintendent Dr. Trenton Hansen. “I’d like to thank my students, because you are the motivation for everything I do,” continued Mr. Gomez. Anthony Gomez attended Jurupa Unified schools from elementary through high school and did not encounter many Hispanic men in positions of authority, which inspired him to become a teacher in his largely Hispanic community. “We have a lot of Hispanic students,” said Mr. Gomez. “I wanted them to be able to see someone [Hispanic] in a position of power and see themselves in that person.” Even as a substitute teacher, Mr. Gomez experienced instant connections with his students. “There was something very special to them to see themselves in me,” he said. This connection endured even through difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In March of 2020, Mr. Gomez uploaded his first video to his YouTube channel, Teaching Juntos , after students suggested he make educational videos so they could continue learning during the first lockdown. ​ Because there are not many U.S. History videos available in Spanish, the channel became a staple of Mr. Gomez’s curriculum during distance learning. Much of the content is inspired by his wife, Cristian, who appears in Mr. Gomez’s “cringy rap videos.” “We inspire each other and we give each other ideas all the time,” said Mr. Gomez of Cristian, who teaches at Pedley Elementary. Now back to teaching in person, Mr. Gomez also records classroom lessons to help fellow teachers. “There's nothing better than being able to see a teacher actually do the lesson with real students,” he said. Mr. Gomez seeks to be a resource for other teachers because of the invaluable teacher mentors who helped make him the educator he is today. ​ One such teacher, Kevin Roughton, currently teaches at Patriot High School and is a 2011 Riverside County Teacher of the Year. Mr. Roughton was an inspiration to Mr. Gomez during his time at Jurupa Middle School. “He had been teaching for such a long time, and still every single day he did his best and he made sure that every year was better than the previous year,” said Mr. Gomez. According to the Riverside County Office of Education, Riverside County Teachers of the Year are selected from nearly 20,000 county educators. Anthony Gomez and three other finalists will represent Riverside County in the 2023 California Teacher of the Year competition. “The best thing about teaching are the students,” said Mr. Gomez. “They have a love of learning and it really feels great to hear all the positive feedback from them. That really is what motivates me year after year to try to do an even better job.”
Leaps and BoundsGlen Avon student rolls clay8/23/2022 7:00:00 AM Jurupa Unified’s K-8 summer program returned in June for a successful second year. LEAP offered nearly 300 courses with 2,700 students participating. Continue reading for a look inside a few classrooms, where learning engaged all possibilities. Pottery Pals at Glen Avon Elementary In Mahera Khan’s class, students learned the basics of ceramics and expressed their creativity. Ms. Khan, who took ceramics classes all four years of high school, was impressed by how quickly her students learned, with some displaying advanced techniques. “It’s very hands-on,” she said. “The students love that.” The 3rd and 4th graders constructed coil pots, slab boxes, and figurines. Most projects required only a pair of hands and a few tools, but students also experimented with pottery wheels. After drying, students painted their clay creations. While some made art for themselves, others crafted gifts for family and friends. “I hope they take away that there are many different types of art, not just painting,” said Ms. Khan. “And that their art can be used for something.” Martial Arts at Jurupa Middle Juan Blanco’s class featured lessons in boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and jujitsu for 7th and 8th graders. “I've been doing martial arts since I was 15,” said Mr. Blanco. “It's helped me with confidence, relieve some anxiety, and it’s just something that I love to do.” Students appreciated the opportunity to learn techniques in self-defense. “I feel safer if I know all this stuff, just in case there’s a situation where I have to do all this stuff,” shared Isabella Zamora, 8th grade. The class also provided an opportunity for incoming 7th graders to make friends and get to know their new campus, preparing them for the upcoming school year. “By the time they leave my class, they’re stronger and they have more confidence,” said Mr. Blanco. “They’re able to socialize with each other a lot better.” ASB Summer Leadership Academy at Mission Middle Leanna Apodaca used her LEAP class to introduce new and returning students to Associated Student Body (ASB), the on-campus student government that guides school events and activities. “I want them to be excited about being back in school and since we're kind ​of getting ASB up and running again as a class, I wanted to build some enthusiasm,” said Ms. Apodaca. Students participated in community-building activities and learned all that ASB has to offer. In one activity, students worked in groups to create a paper chain featuring positive messages. The challenge was they could only use one hand, which turned simple tasks like cutting paper into efforts requiring more focus and collaboration. “That activity pushed us to have better communication and so I feel like it helped us get closer,” said Melissa Corral, 8th grade. Melissa and her friend, Xiomara Negrete, were part of an informal ASB last school year. They enrolled in LEAP so they could make plans for this school year and meet new members. “The better you know [people], the better you work,” said Xiomara.​​ Dance around the World at Stone Avenue Elementary ​ In Gabriela Regalado’s class, students learned traditional dances from countries such as Mexico, Japan, France, and India. Each class began with video lessons and readings about that day’s country so students could get to know the culture and geography. Then the 3rd and 4th graders watched video performances of dances before attempting the steps themselves. Ms. Regalado was most surprised by her students’ openness and eagerness to try something new, even if that meant making mistakes. “They’re excited to dance,” she said. To accompany the dance lessons, Ms. Regalado purchased themed headpieces so students would feel connected to the featured country. “They become part of that country [for the day],” she expressed. “My biggest hope is for them to be open to [learning] about other cultures.”​​
No Stone UnturnedMr. Horton teaches CSI students how to sift dirt8/23/2022 7:00:00 AM ​ Patriot High School’s Public Services pathway thrives on hands-on activity. The two courses feature a wide range of lessons that simulate actual police work to prepare students for careers in law enforcement. “Rather than show them a video,” said Jason Horton, teacher, “they actually get to do it.” One popular unit in Mr. Horton’s Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) class is forensic archeology, meaning the recovery of human remains that were buried to hide a crime. For this exercise, Mr. Horton leads students to a dirt lot on Patriot’s campus where "gravesites" containing fake human bones await excavation. Students are divided into groups and each group is assigned to one of the sites. Mr. Horton deliberately places students with classmates they do not normally work with in order to strengthen their communication and collaboration skills. In a team of six, each student has a different task, whether it’s shoveling or sifting dirt; or brushing or photographing bones once they are uncovered. As a group, the students must decide how they will successfully complete the excavation so that all evidence is properly preserved. “When we walk away from an exercise like this, [students are] able to actually say, ‘not only do I understand the concepts, but I know how to do the activity myself,’” said Mr. Horton. Other CSI lessons include fingerprinting, blood analysis, and footprint and tire track examination. The pathway’s introductory course, Law Enforcement, has a lecture focus, but there are many opportunities for hands-on instruction as well. Students perform drills, drag a person-sized dummy, and climb over a wall as though they are in pursuit of a suspect. These exercises are lifted directly from police training. “The CSI and law enforcement classes were probably my favorite classes throughout my entire high school career,” said Miles Salvador, a former student who appreciated Mr. Horton’s law enforcement background. Added Miles, “I know [the lessons are] coming from a primary source. He’s seen things, he’s done things, he’s been through the whole thing.” Hermione Alanis, a current student, enrolled in the pathway because she wants to pursue a career in law enforcement. “I want to do something to help people around my community,” she said. “I’m very thankful [for this pathway] because I get an insight [into] what I might want to do in the future.” Though the pathway’s primary goal is to prepare students for a career, students also benefit from the opportunity to improve their public speaking and teamwork skills through presentations and group work, as well as develop responsibility and professionalism. “[Mr. Horton is] teaching us qualities…to become a better person while working in a professional environment,” said Hermione. Mr. Horton’s dedication to his students’ success, no matter their goals, leaves a lasting impact. “He really does care for his students,” said Naseem, a former student who appreciated Mr. Horton’s steady encouragement throughout the school year. Naseem’s classmate, Samantha Herrera, ​added, “He’s really passionate about police work and we see that in the way he teaches us.” ​
Brand New Ball GameRHS softball player up at bat, JVHS catcher behind her5/24/2022 7:00:00 AM ​ With a new coach and a young team, Jurupa Valley High’s varsity baseball season began in a place of uncertainty. “In the beginning of the season, we were really underlooked by many of the students,” said Ramiro Venegas, senior and team captain. New players lacked fundamentals. Older players were rusty after pandemic disruptions. There were injuries and issues with assigning positions. Then the athletes found their rhythm. One turning point was the non-conference game versus Notre Dame High School, a team that JVHS lost to last year. “We were down in that game,” said Julio Jara, head coach. “But we came back, we rallied. That showed [the players] that they have the heart to fight back. That was a good win for us.” “For us to [win] this year, with a young team, made me proud,” added Ramiro. The team went on to claim second place in the Mountain Valley League with a record of 8-2. Though they lost in the first round of CIF, the players are proud of their performance this season. The hardships they faced only strengthened them as athletes and young men. “People say that baseball builds character. I think it reveals it,” said Coach Jara. “When you’re against the wall and everything’s going wrong – what type of person are you? How are you going to come back from your struggles? If you can learn the lessons here, you’ll be a better person out there.” Similarly, Patriot High’s baseball team struggled with a starting lineup of young players, but Otis Williams is proud of his athletes’ grit. “I really enjoyed watching these guys fight to the very end,” said the head coach. “In a time period where failure is very scary, [baseball] allows the players to kind of embrace failure and not focus on the results as much as the process, and I think that's huge for the boys to take on.” A strong camaraderie among players helped the team endure losses and improve their gameplay, resulting in more wins than last season. “I think this team’s special because our chemistry is good,” said Anthony Carvajal, senior and team captain. “We all have fun out here." Strong bonds are also what propelled Rubidoux High’s softball team through their season. “Coming back from the pandemic, it was hard to rebuild a lot of sports,” said Ariana Hammock, senior and team co-captain. “I was in other sports as well, so I’d seen the process beforehand, and coming out here just felt way [easier] to bond with [the girls].” ​ ​ This year, the team had only three seniors and the majority of players were completely new to the sport. “I know it was hard for a lot of girls to come out of their comfort zone and become something they’re not,” said Ariana. “Seeing them become better people for themselves [was] really nice.” “People their parents wouldn’t expect, either,” added Arlene Arredondo, junior and co-captain. According to Arlene, one player’s mother was shocked to see her daughter, who had no prior experience with softball, hit the ball as far as she did. Just before the end of the season, Arlene hit the team’s first home run. Moments like these outweigh challenges. “[Softball] is hard to learn,” acknowledged Alicia Jones, head coach. “But coming together as a team, I think we overcame it all.”
Global InnovatorsRobotics class and teacher5/24/2022 7:00:00 AM On April 6th, Rustic Lane Elementary’s robotics and programming class participated in the first Innovation Day Inland Empire, an event for students to showcase projects they completed for the "do your bit" global challenge using microbit technology. The microbit is a pocket-sized computer that facilitates student coding projects. For the do your bit challenge, students between the ages of eight and eighteen use microbit devices to design and prototype projects aligned with the 17 Global Goals adopted by the United Nations, which include affordable and clean energy; climate action; and taking care of life below water and on land. Six Inland Empire schools participated in Innovation Day, and ​Rustic Lane students presented their microbit prototypes to representatives from the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Digital Learning Services Department, the coordinating office. Students also received virtual tech support from microbit global champions via Zoom, and submitted their projects to the Microbit Foundation for awards consideration. "Innovation Day is a day for students to invent and explore and use their creativity to build something that they never could imagine before,” shared Tonya Coats, 2nd-grade teacher and robotics and programming advisor. “Using their computing skills and also their creative abilities, our students are able to bring their ideas to life.” ​ Projects included a bee counter to determine the state of a hive; a rainwater irrigation system to distribute water to plants in need; a system that allows wind energy to power a house when the electricity fails; and a trash collector boat to clean up oceans. "We wanted to build this project because a lot of animals get hurt while they're just doing their normal activities in the ocean,” said Jayden, one of two students behind the trash collector project. “People just throw so much stuff in the ocean that shouldn't be in the ocean.” Jayden, 6th grade, and Jannely, 4th grade, constructed their boat with a 3D printer. They tested multiple prototypes before determining the right measurements and code to make their trash collector function in water. For Jannely, the process was inspiring. “It made me realize everything I could make,” she said. “What we learned is that microbits can help us in the future,” added Andrea, 3rd grade, who designed the bee counter with her partner, Yuliana, 4th grade. ​ The Rustic Lane robotics and programming class​ is funded by the Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Program and meets before and after school. Six girls from various grade levels participate. The girls credit their interest in computer science to Ms. Coats and are grateful to her for providing them with a strong foundation for future learning. “It’s super important to inspire computer science [education] in young girls,” said Ms. Coats, noting girls might be hesitant to get involved because it is a historically male-dominated field. “Once you get them started, they gravitate toward it. They love it and they build onto it every year.” For more information about the do your bit challenge, please visit microbit.org/projects/do-your-bit/ .
The Next ChapterKylie Carmona holding UCSD Pennant5/24/2022 7:00:00 AM Before the celebration of graduation, another important occasion dominates the attention of many JUSD seniors committing to a college. For some students, the decision is easy. They know their top school going in and are ready to commit the moment they are accepted. Other students need to weigh their options.​ Matthew Torre’s decision came down to two schools Stanford and the University of Southern California - Los Angeles (USC). The Patriot High valedictorian gathered as much information as he could to make the most informed decision possible. He visited the campuses, tallied scholarships and financial aid offers, compared degree programs, and considered advice from counselors, teachers, and relatives. “A lot of their advice comes down to how well do you see yourself fitting in at a particular university? How do you see yourself kind of contributing to the student life and kind of contributing to the university as a whole?” said Matthew, who plans to study economics. Ultimately, the place Matthew sees himself spending the next four years is Stanford. “Those are all movers and shakers. People who are trying to make a big difference in the world,” he said, of the students and faculty. “That’s something I [can] see myself fitting into because I’ve always had a lot of ambition, and…that’s a place where I [can] pursue that with people who are like-minded.” Kylie Carmona was accepted to over a dozen schools in multiple states but knew in her heart where she would end up. “It has to be UC San Diego,” said the Rubidoux High senior. “I feel most at home there and I feel that I won't have to change much of myself to fit in there. None of the other UCs have caught me the way San Diego does.” In addition to boasting an impressive coastal location, San Diego is a top-ranked UC when it comes to mechanical engineering, which is what Kylie plans to study. But as a first-generation college student, Kylie has anxieties about entering a rigorous STEM program. Despite her academic achievements, she often feels doubted by others because of her background. “I think that’s the only thing that scares me. That when I get there, I’m going to be feeding into [others’] expectations for me and I don’t want to do that,” she shared. “But I’m still willing to put in the work.” Some college decisions require a leap of faith. For Diana Lopez, that means traveling to the other side of the country to attend Wellesley College in Massachusetts even though she has never lived beyond Southern California. “I don't know anybody over there,” said the Jurupa Valley High valedictorian. “That's one of the best parts about going to a new place, but I'm not an extrovert, so socializing with new people is kind of intimidating.” ​ Diana hopes she will adjust quickly to the new community and weather as she majors in physics, a subject she chose because it challenges her more than other areas of science. “I’m really sensitive to the cold,” she admitted. “But I think it’ll be cool to be snowed in and not be able to go anywhere.” Now that college decisions have been made, seniors are formulating their summer plans. Some will work to save money. Others will take a well-deserved break between four years of high school and four years of college. Diana Moreno, who graduated from Nueva Vista High in March, is ready to begin the next chapter of her life. Diana is enrolled in a summer class at Riverside City College (RCC), the first course in her corrections program. She plans to pursue a healthy balance of part-time school and part-time work. “I don’t know what to expect,” she said, “but I’m also ready for anything.” Like many students, Diana is nervous about not doing well. But she has learned from her teachers and counselors that if her program at RCC does not work out, she can try something else. She can keep trying until she finds the right thing. “There’s never an age to not go to college,” she said. ​
Teacher's PetBecky the guinea pig, Wilbur the tortoise, and Draco the bearded dragon5/24/2022 7:00:00 AM ​ Fifteen years ago, a Granite Hill Elementary teacher found a California desert tortoise wandering the streets of Corona. “She wasn’t able to locate the owner, so she brought him to me,” said Kathleen Brooks, who also teaches at the school. Ms. Brooks already had experience with tortoises. She adopted the reptile, whom she named Wilbur, and saw an opportunity to make him a part-time class pet, incorporating him into her 2nd-grade science unit. "They are great with him,” she said of her students’ interactions with Wilbur. “They love learning about him.” Wilbur’s arrival coincided with the creation of the school’s garden, and a mural dedicated to him overlooks the space. “We do a garden [plot] specifically for Wilbur,” shared Ms. Brooks. “We grow things like collard greens and mustard greens and dandelions.” When her students work in the soil, Wilbur is nearby, slowly exploring his wooden enclosure. Kids take breaks from planting and weeding to feed him and pet his shell. “He absolutely loves kids,” said Ms. Brooks. “He’s very friendly.” Ms. Brooks believes Wilbur teaches her students about empathy and how to take care of another living creature. “I think Wilbur has kind of a calming effect, too,” she shared. Class pets are not only beneficial to elementary kids. At Mira Loma Middle, a bearded dragon lizard named Draco helps Nancy Croxton teach about ecology and evolution. “She becomes part of the curriculum,” said Ms. Croxton. At thirteen, Draco has been a class pet for most of her life. Ms. Croxton introduced the lizard to her Patriot High science club when Draco was only four weeks old. Now at Mira Loma, Draco hangs out with students while they work on assignments. Middle schoolers take turns holding her and marveling over her sunset colors. “She’ll make some of the shyest students in the room come up and ask questions,” shared Ms. Croxton. The most popular question is, does she bite? “I always tell them any animal can bite if they’re provoked. Even [people],” said Ms. Croxton. “But she never has. She’s a wonderful, easygoing, pretty mellow lizard.” Class pets are often the stars of the classroom. At Pedley Elementary, the favored class job of Tracy Grogan’s kindergarteners is “Critter Wrangler.” The classroom is western-themed, and Critter Wrangler is the title given to students who care for Becky, the hairless guinea pig. Critter Wranglers feed her, make sure her hay trough is full, check her water level, and give her treats like carrots and kale. “The kids love to talk to her every day,” shared Ms. Grogan. “When the kids are nervous about reading or they just want a little more practice, they go back and read to her because she's a great listener.” Students are eager to learn about her, too. In the cafeteria, they point to vegetables or fruits and ask if Becky can have them, which sends Ms. Grogan straight to Google for the answer. Becky is also an asset to social-emotional learning, especially at the beginning of the year when kindergarteners have a hard time being separated from parents and guardians. Becky provides comfort to students adjusting to a new environment. “She is invaluable...[to] any kindergartener that’s struggling, having a hard time,” reported Ms. Grogan. “She’s a very popular member of our class.”


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