Paloma Elementary School Educator Named Among Top Teachers of the Year by PETA

For Immediate Release:
May 9, 2024

Sara Groves 202-483-7382

Gila Bend, Ariz.

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6–10), TeachKind—PETA’s humane education division—has named Paloma Elementary School second-grade educator Josie McClain one of the top three 2024 Teachers of the Year for her innovative approach to bringing kindness to animals into her classroom.

At Paloma Elementary School—a small, rural school with limited access to fresh produce and ready-made vegan options—McClain introduced a windowsill garden and aquaponics system into her classroom, complete with an artificial fish, to help students learn about plant life cycles and offer them an opportunity to try new foods, like oyster mushrooms and wheatgrass. McClain has left animals off her own plate for 10 years. Because she knows that a classroom isn’t a suitable home for an animal, instead of a class pet, her students help care for Ratty (a plush rat from TeachKind) and a variety of class plants. Each November, her class collects money to sponsor a rescued turkey at a sanctuary, and during lunchtime, the group often picks up trash and finds ways to recycle items. In her classroom library, she keeps books that teach age-appropriate lessons in compassion, including Junebug: No Life Too Small and Hey, Little Ant.

“From helping her students grow delicious plant-based foods to spending her lunch breaks cleaning up Gila Bend, Josie McClain shows kids how to be a hero for animals and the environment every day,” says PETA Senior Director of Youth Programs Marta Holmberg. “TeachKind’s Teacher of the Year Contest winners all deserve a round of applause for proving that compassion belongs in every classroom.”

McClain will receive a framed certificate and a prize package of animal-friendly goodies, including a set of books for her classroom library. TeachKind also plans to work with her throughout the year to help her develop ways to support and encourage other teachers to bring similar lessons into their classrooms.

PETA—whose motto reads, “Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. TeachKind offers free presentations, lessons, and other resources to help teachers add compassion to their curricula. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Facebook or Instagram.

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