Lydia Breuer, Reporter
Smooth, shiny scales glisten in artificial light as a snake lazily creeps around it’s glass enclosure. A large bearded dragon basks in the yellow light mounted on the wall of the enclosure set beside the serpent, its rough feet grasp on the branch below it. Just a floor down, another snake rests in a coil in the corner of its enclosure, with its thin forked tongue flicking out occasionally.
Economics and psychology teacher Kiff Weimers keeps a snake in his room as a class pet, and science teacher Dejah Bushong owns a snake and a bearded dragon in her room.
“Classroom pets always seem kind of like fun,” Weimers said. “If kids are interested and kids want to come into your class, then it’s a win.”
Weimers had a snake before, but he received a better offer last year, a Californian king snake he named Apollo.
“I had a snake before, and I made a trade with a former student who gave me an uptrade,” Wiemers said. “One of my students just picked the name. I hadn’t had a name for a while, and so I felt bad. She felt bad so she just said Apollo. I was like, ‘I like Greek mythology,’ done.”
Bushong had her start with her bearded dragon, Molecule, when she was teaching eighth grade science.
“I wanted to keep a pet in my classroom to keep the kids interested,” Bushong said. “When I taught eighth grade science we would work her into physics problems, and she just kept them a little more interested, and the students all like to hang out with her.”
Bushong also has a ball python named Barrie, which she inherited from a teacher that did not take the snake when they left.
“The older I have gotten, the more I’ve been able to handle them, the more I like them, so I have wanted one for a while,” Bushong said. “I had to wait a little bit until my kiddos were a little bit older, though, because when they’re little they don’t know the difference between a snake it’s ok to touch and a snake that is outside that it’s not ok to touch.”
To some, reptiles can be frightening and off-putting, but sophomore Serena Resh has both Bushong and Weimers and enjoys the animals.
“It makes me happy and reduces stress,” Resh said. “I have held the bearded dragon. I would love to hold the snakes some time.”
Resh said the pets help students learn empathy.
“Learning to be gentle around these creatures and sympathetic to them, carries over to our classmates,” Resh said. ”It’s a huge bonding experience between the students, their peers and their teachers. It gets people excited to come to class, and more interested in the lesson when you have a live example.”