Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Agency Honors Teacher; an Enterprise Learning Academy Instructor Teaches Respect for Animals

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Agency Honors Teacher; an Enterprise Learning Academy Instructor Teaches Respect for Animals

Article excerpt


Like a true Hollywood heartthrob, Leonardo sat poised on his couch, ready for another show taping. On this day, he sported a Hawaiian shirt and brought a toy boat for good effect. His co-host, Vicki Roberts, was ready with the questions.

As a tune from The Addams Family played, the tiny Chihuahua launched into another much-anticipated edition of the most-watched TV show among Enterprise Learning Academy's kids: The Leonardo Show.

The dog's owner, Rebekah Harp, is a special education teacher for grades 4 and 5 at Enterprise Learning Academy on the Westside.

Her efforts and commitment to education helped her earn the 2006 National KIND (Kids In Nature's Defense) Teacher award from the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education. It recognizes a teacher who consistently incorporates humane education, teaching kindness and respect for people, animals and the environment, said the association.

Harp received a plaque and the association's collection of humane education materials, the organization said. This year, the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education received more than 150 nominations.

Harp's pugs, Aunt Pitty Pat and Scarlett O'Hara, accompany her to class every Friday. Her students, who are three or four levels behind academically, are quick to take on a role of responsibility, caring for the pugs during class time, she said.

"This is a way they can show success," said Harp. "It's a real self-esteem builder for them."

The dogs even assist reluctant readers by sitting quietly as students read to them.

"Often embarrassed about reading in front of the class, these children have no problem reading to the dogs in a quiet corner," she said. "It builds their confidence enough so that eventually they can read aloud to everyone."

Harp, a teacher for 14 years, promotes kindness toward animals and awareness of animal issues. She creates programs for her students such as The Leonardo Show on a regular basis. One of her most popular promotions is the Polite Pug Patrol, featuring one of her own pugs. Teachers nominate students who show good behavior. Harp brings the pug to their class, where it "sniffs out" polite kids. They are rewarded with a certificate and a picture with the pugs.

"I think dogs and children are a good combination," said Harp.

Harp also sponsors theme weeks for the school, such as International Vacation, during which students do presentations on countries and kids travel to different classes to learn about them.

Other projects include a play performed for the entire school titled It's Raining Cats and Dogs, about pet overpopulation, and commercials to encourage activities like studying for the FCAT and summer safety. Harp is also head and founder of Enterprise's Jr. …

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