Teacher’s Pet Mr. T Helps Vail Pupils Overcome Speech Problems
By Konstantinos Kalaitzidis, Tucson Citizen
Mr. T is a different kind of “speech therapist.” He walks on all fours, is very hairy and has a cold, wet nose. And when he enters a classroom, kids run and hug him – just like the preschoolers at Cottonwood Elementary School did on Wednesday.He’s so popular that when Mike Bloker, the real Vail Unified School District speech and language therapist, walks into the room – he’s ignored. But Bloker doesn’t mind.
Bloker, 60, is using his canine companion to help children overcome speech and language problems.
“This dog brings out the best in people,” Bloker said. “A little girl in a class could not say a word, but working with the dog, things changed. We walked in and she jumped up and said, ‘Mr. T, here,’ then pointed at herself (and) signed the word for more. And that was the first time we got more than one word out of her.”
Teachers have also seen wonderful results. “I have witnessed him (Mr. T) bring words out of kids that never talked,” said Kim Bakarich, 27, a Vail preschool teacher. “The children interact a lot more, especially those that are reserved. He brings out their personality.”
Kim Clark, 39, also a preschool teacher, said, “The children want to be here when they know that he is going to be here. There are some kids that are afraid of dogs, but not of Mr. T because of his personality.”