It was a tough decision, but PETA has chosen the winners of our TeachKind Teacher Appreciation Contest! These two educators best exemplify the TeachKind goals of creatively inspiring students to help animals and encouraging students to use that inspiration to positively impact their schools and communities.
Here are the winners:
- Grade K-5 Winner: Molly Lile Taylor, Barren River Animal Welfare Association, Glasgow, Kentucky
Every year, Molly Lile Taylor organizes “Critter Club,” a group of students who meet at the Barren River Animal Welfare Association (BRAWA) to learn about humane treatment of animals, responsible animal guardianship, the animal-homelessness crisis, careers that involve working with animals, and many other important topics. The children are a huge asset to the animal shelter, collecting donations, helping with fundraisers, making toys for the animals, and helping to socialize them. Many “Critter Clubbers” choose to have their birthday parties at the shelter and collect items that the animals need instead of receiving gifts.
Critter Club was so successful that Taylor extended it into the summer with Camp BRAWA. “As educators, we enjoy watching this interaction and feel a sense of accomplishment knowing we helped facilitate the relationships between the kids and the animals,” she says. “Our goal for ‘Critter Club’ is to foster compassion in the children so that they can grow up to be responsible, compassionate adults.”
- Grade 6-12 Winner: Maru Vigo, Doolen Middle School, Tucson, Arizona
Maru Vigo teaches Spanish with a side of animal rights. She has included humane-education lessons in her curricula every year since beginning her career and says she has seen a profound difference in the students’ lives. This year’s lessons centered on vegetarianism and greyhound racing. The class sampled vegan foods and used PETA’s vegetarian/vegan starter kit to learn how to choose plant-based foods at the supermarket. And after the class learned about the cruelty behind greyhound racing, which is part of the TeachKind lesson plans, it welcomed a rescued former racer to its classroom.
The kids left Vigo’s class determined to educate others about cruelty-free eating choices and about why they should not patronize greyhound races. Other educators are starting to notice the effects that the humane-education classes have had on Vigo’s students. She says, “As educators, it is our job to inspire young people and to instill values and compassion in them. If we want a better world, we must start by teaching kids about kindness, respect, and empathy for all.”
Congratulations to Molly Lile Taylor and Maru Vigo!
Teachers, administrators, and parents who home-school can join the TeachKind Network to receive free resources to help them implement their own humane-education programs.