Published in the Hebrew Watchman, March 5, 2020
Two days a week you can find one of the cutest and smallest additions to Bornblum Jewish Community School’s staff. Chloe, a toy Pomeranian, has been at Bornblum for only a month but her impact has been huge for the students as well as the staff at Bornblum.
Annette Eisenberg, a Learning Specialist at Bornblum, is the handler and owner of Chloe. They have been certified as a Pet Therapy Team through the national organization, Alliance of Therapy Dogs. The Alliance of Therapy Dogs mission is to provide smiles and joy to people, young and old alike.
Chloe has brought more than smiles and joy to everyone who meets her. As a certified therapy dog, she has been a motivator to the students. “Cloe is nonjudgmental and positive. Students feel comfortable with reading aloud to Cloe which helps them to perfect their reading skills,” says Mrs. Eisenberg.
Research shows that regular visits with a therapy dog can have a positive effect on children’s mental and emotional well being. The students are calmer and in a fit state to learn. Chloe helps the staff and teachers as well. They will often seek her out to recharge. When staff members get stressed out they will come find Chloe, hold her and say they feel much better. Students will request to pet her if they feel anxious about an upcoming test or an after school competition.
According to Bornblum’s School Counselor, Vanessa Akeredolu, “I am so proud to be part of a school so innovative and responsive to students’ social emotional as well as academic needs! I think Chloe is a great asset to the school and I can’t wait to see what supports and programs Chloe has in store for us in the coming school year.”
Chloe, who comes to Bornblum on Wednesdays and Thursdays, has big plans. For example, Mrs. Eisenberg will take Chloe to the second grade where Chloe will listen to students explain how to solve their current math problems.
The first grade teachers also want to have the school’s newest “motivator” listen to students as they each read to her in the library. Pam Buchwalter, one of Bornblum’s first grade teachers says that, “reading to a dog helps build the students’ self-confidence and reduces stress levels. It allows children to practice their reading skills in an environment where they aren’t worried or focused on making mistakes because they know that the dog is not judging their reading and is a great listener.”
Though Eisenberg is pretty sure Chloe doesn’t know Hebrew, she still helps out in Jewish studies classes as well. During a recent lesson in in Kindergarten, Chloe and Mrs. Eisenberg listened as the kindergarteners explained the Torah portion of the week. “The children were delighted and at ease explaining what they were taught,” says Eisenberg.
In May, when the students leave school to begin their summer break, Chloe and Eisenberg will continue as volunteers with the West TN Therapy Dogs to bring smiles and joy to others until they return to Bornblum in August. This coming week (Monday night), we celebrate the holiday of Purim. On the Shabbat that precedes Purim, we read a special portion from the Torah about a group of people called Amalek. We are told to “REMEMBER” what Amalek did to the Jewish people. We call this Shabbat, Shabbat Zachor. The Shabbat of Remembering. The word Zachor is also used in the fourth commandment, as we are told to “Remember the Sabbath day”. It is also a word that has been used for much of the past 75 years, as a way of remembering the tragedies of the Holocaust.