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Teachers at Chester Valley Elementary get creative to help keep kids motivated to learn

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 3:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Throughout the pandemic and even now with kids returning to classrooms, schools have had to get creative to engage with their students. Luckily, creativity tends to thrive within the motivated minds of teachers at Chester Valley Elementary. Who, for example, started up a program that features stuffed huskies in an effort to draw the attention of their students.

“Every classroom, we have 12 classrooms, has a husky,” says librarian Nicole Simasko.

The huskies have been a big hit during the pandemic and continue to be as students have returned to the school building.

“They have to live in the library, that’s the deal because they’re a pack and that’s important to us at the school. We talk about how we’re a pack and it’s our family and so it’s important that the huskies have to stay together in their pack in the library,” says Simasko.

Even though these huskies live in the library they do take trips. Sometimes it’s to the classroom they represent, but they’ve also been ventured outside of the school. So far this year, the huskies have been seen in a small aircraft, at the hospital, celebrating holidays and most recently visiting Begich Middle School.

That last trip was used to give the students who will graduate from Chester Valley Elementary a look at their next school, even though they aren’t able to visit right now due to COVID-19 restrictions. No matter the age or grade of the students, the huskies in the library seem to be a big hit.

“We have one husky Rosie, she’s assigned to our second-grade classroom, and the kids have brought in, they’ve made collars for her with her name on it and they like to bring in outfits for their dress-up days. They’re just really engaged. They’ve written stories about adventures that these huskies have gone on as classroom assignments,” says Simasko.

To the faculty at Chester Valley Elementary the benefits are clear.

Behavior coach and administrative intern Haylee Donovan explains, “We always talk about ways to get kids reading, it’s so important, and because it’s connected to the library it’s kind of been a big draw.”

Donovan credits Simasko for the creativity and ingenuity involved in the husky program.

“She incorporates the huskies reading often, ties in the adventures to book,s it’s really helped to engage them,” said Donovan.

Given the current climate, Donovan believes programs like this have a heightened level of importance.

“We don’t have specials right now, our kids can’t come into library or gym or music, so this is just a way that they’re still getting that piece that they may otherwise be missing,” said Donovan.

Even as the pandemic begins to wain and students begin to return to the school building, Simasko says that the excitement for these plucky pups has only grown.

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