Cenla teacher using rescued bearded dragon to help students adjust to this year’s changes, learn life lessons

“I look forward to coming here every day because I get to see Newman."
This year has been full of ups and downs and lots of change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, sometimes change can be a good thing…even in 2020.
Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 4:48 PM CDT
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TIOGA, La. (KALB) - Tioga High School science teacher Kelsey Baker has a pretty unique member of the classroom this year.

“It’s already the second week of school and we’ve already incorporated Newman into our lessons,” says Baker.

Newman is a rescued bearded dragon that Miss Baker adopted specifically for this school year.

“Having him is a very good distraction because...I don’t know this school year is really weird with corona and everything,” says student Hailey Kircher.

He or she - they’re not really sure - serves many purposes in the classroom.

“Transitioning into high school is a change. Some kids are nervous. That has a negative connotation to it, and then the COVID regulations. Again, a negative connotation to it but change can be a good thing,” says lead teacher Randy Smith.

In addition to using Newman to teach lessons on the scientific method, Miss Baker also uses Newman to help calm the classroom, even serving as a coping mechanism for some kids.

“Especially for students that have ADHD and on the Autism spectrum, and even for behavior management. Already I can tell the difference,” says Baker.

Educators say Newman is already bringing about teachable moments like responsibility, empathy, and compassion.

“There’s a lot of adjusting your personality and how you’re doing things for the lizard and when they get older they’re going to have to learn that the world doesn’t work exactly the way you want it to, and there are going to be times to adjust and adapt,” adds Smith.

Newman is also helping show that some of life’s best rewards come as experiences instead of material things.

“I look forward to coming here every day because I get to see Newman, and it’s a very different atmosphere from the other classrooms because there is a pet,” adds Kircher.

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