Corowa Public School children look forward to class each day where they are greeted by a new furry friend.
Willow, the school’s educational assistance Labrador, has become a celebrity among the students since settling in earlier this year.
Relieving Principal Sharelle Baily adopted Willow, a domestic dog, when she was 8 weeks old.
She said the idea was to bring care, respect and responsibility back into school, which comes with pet ownership.
Willow, who is now 6 months old, undertook training with Brydie Charlesworth, a dog trainer based in Albury.
Although Mrs Baily would like to teach Willow a new trick – how to jump.
“Willow won’t jump, even into the car,” she said.
“I have never heard of a dog that doesn’t jump, but Willow was taught not to because we couldn’t have her jumping on the kids.
“The only problem is that she is becoming too heavy to lift into the car each day.
“We may have to come up with a ramp or something.”
The school recently launched its Positive Behaviour for Learning program, which links into the school’s current values, to be caring, respectful and responsible.
Known as PBL, it is an evidence-based whole school systems approach that addressees the diverse academic and social needs of every student to support them to be successful students.
Mrs Baily said Willow fit right in with the school’s values and would teach students a number of life lessons.
“They know they can’t leave rubbish on the ground because Willow will eat it,” she said.
“Students also have to remember to keep doors closed when Willow is around, so those kinds of things.
“Observing and caring for an animal instils a sense of responsibility and respect for life.
“Students learn that all living things need more than just food and water for survival.”
Each class has a roster that includes time for such things like exercise and play time.
“We also have some of our special needs kids that come in from time to time and they just need a Willow hug,” Mrs Baily said.
“There may have been an issue as they came to school or something has happened in the playground and they just need that time out, so that’s when they will come in and ask for some Willow time.
“Sometimes they will take her for a walk or other times they will just sit with her and Willow doesn’t care – it is unconditional love.”
Mrs Baily, who has training in special education, did a lot of research into the benefits of a dog in a school environment before taking on the commitment.
“It’s a commitment that my husband and I have taken on as well because we take her home, we are the primary carers but the benefits for the kids and the school far outweigh everything,” she said.
“We also surveyed the school community and everyone was very supportive.”
Kindergarten teacher Courtney McDonald described Willow was an asset, especially for students without animals at home.
“It shows them what caring looks like,” she said.
“They are mindful of picking up their rubbish and they know they have to be gentle with her and take her for walks.”