By VAL OLIVAS, Four Points News
School in the Hills in Steiner Ranch has a new student,—of the four-legged variety.
Page is an 8-month-old Golden Retriever and her primary responsibility is to dutifully listen to children read books.
Since Page’s first day of school in November, “We have already seen results in motivating children to read an entire set of books,” said Alicia Marker, head of school and co-owner with husband, Daniel.
“If the student has lost focus, Page gives him drive. A dog doesn’t correct the reader or make an interruption,” she said.
Page lies at the front door and greets the children each morning, and about 90 percent of the nearly 170 students stop and pet her, Marker said.
Many Montessori schools include dogs with their programs. Their presence helps to calm upset children, and a repetitive petting motion aids in increasing a child’s fine motor skills, Marker added.
Finding the right match for School in the Hills required extensive research. After talking to many breeders, the Markers found a breeder in Montana who also happens to own a Montessori school.
Page’s disposition and temperament were deemed a match for Steiner.
At three months old, Page was shipped to Austin, arrived on Halloween night, and started at the school the following day.
“We brought her in from day one to begin to train her for her day job, and then at night she knows we go home and that’s family time,” Marker said.
Page receives additional training at Canine Center for Training and Behavior in Oak Hill.
“[The staff] provides a Montessori-like philosophy with positive reinforcement. Page has commands for chilling out, another for going to bed and has timeouts,” Marker said.
A personal trainer works with Page and Marker exclusively as well.
Page is at school on weekdays except Wednesdays when she attends Tutor Days, which provides specialized training in whatever Page may need extra help in like sitting and staying at doorways.
Page is currently certified as a Canine Good Citizen, which is a program the Canine Center created to “reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community.”
The Markers are confident about Page’s future at School in the Hills.
“I see her wandering through the classrooms and being inspirational throughout the school; letting her listen and [identify] an upset child and soothe, where soothing is needed,” Marker said. “The kids love her, and she loves the kids.”