For Immediate Release:
June 29, 2021
Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382
Providence, R.I. – Following a school year like no other, TeachKind—PETA’s humane education division—has named Roger Williams Middle School educator Laura Barlow its 2021 Teacher of the Year. Barlow puts compassion for animals at the center of her classroom, including by leading discussions about animal rights themes in plays, introducing her students to her rescued dogs with special needs, giving away vegan candy at Halloween, and much more.
As an arts teacher who tackles visual arts, graphic design, performing arts, and photography, Barlow helps students exercise their creativity in ways that boost their empathy for animals. Her students create advocacy posters on topics such as the importance of animal adoption and the cruelty of bullfighting, research issues that affect animals in plays such as The Lion King, and discuss their responses to images of animals, such as one of a sheep wearing a wool sweater that inspired students to think about who wool comes from. When her classes moved online during the pandemic, she seized the opportunity to show off her rescued dogs, share their histories of abuse, and remind her students that all animals deserve love, care, and consideration.
“This tough year didn’t stop Laura Barlow from teaching her students to view animals as someone, not something,” says PETA Senior Director of Youth Programs Marta Holmberg. “PETA is honoring her for inspiring young people to express their creativity and use their voices to make the world a kinder place.”
A vegan for two decades and president of the nonprofit organization Rhode Island Vegan Awareness, Barlow leads by example outside the classroom, too—hosting animal rights movie screenings, passing out vegan meals to those in need, and organizing community trash cleanups to protect local wildlife.
She’ll receive an animal-friendly gift basket designed especially for teachers, a faux-leather backpack from “PETA-Approved Vegan” company von Holzhausen and a subscription to vegan meal delivery service MamaSezz.
TeachKind—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. The group offers free resources, presentations, lessons, and more to help teachers add compassion to their curriculum.