Reaching out to autistic or special needs children can be a challenge for teachers.
But a volunteer teacher at Mount Penn Elementary school has a special bond with students that is unmatched, and she and her partner are a pair of Unsung Heroes.
Linda Gantert of Robesonia does her job to make sure all the students and her best friend Grady are together.
"Grady just loves coming to school. He loves running up and down the halls," Gantert said.
Grady is her labrador retriever. He may look like any other dog playing fetch, but he is a highly trained therapy dog.
"Even though a therapy dog is a little untraditional, I can't imagine school without him, said Mount Penn Elementary Principal Amy Flannery. She also said Grady is an important staff member.
"If it's a Grady day sometimes I'll call Linda and say Linda is it possible Grady could visit the office, I have a student that is in need," she added.
Flannery said Grady can communicate with students in a way she or other teachers can't.
"He'll come up to the office and those students will just wrap their arms around him and hold him and be able to tell him what they're thinking," Flannery said.
"If someone is having a hard time during the day he helps calm them down," added Gantert.
Gantert works with autistic and life skills students. She has been bringing Grady for the last 4 years. She doesn't really see herself as an unsung hero, even if Grady wouldn't be here if she wasn't.
"It's just something that I do, it's something that Grady does. I handle Grady, but it is all Grady," Gantert said.
"She always goes above and beyond and they both have such big hearts and that just makes me so proud someone who works so hard is being recognized for something she deserves," added Flannery.
Seeing the students interact with Grady is Gantert's greatest reward.
"When they're successful and when they read to him, it's so overwhelming," said Gantert.
She said Grady is one of 50 active therapy dogs in Berks County. And based on the looks of it-- these kids are grateful for their Grady and Mrs. Gantert.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley 69 News