Amy Johnson (Executive Director) Teacher's Pet has changed my life. Working with the kids and the dogs and watching what they are able to accomplish is so humbling! Each day I think I couldn't possibly love it anymore...and then I do. To sum it up, I'm a kid and dog person. To be able to combine these two loves is a dream come true. By day, I work at Oakland University where I developed and facilitate the online Animal Assisted Therapy Certificate Program, I also teach a course through the Honors College entitled Understanding The Human Animal Bond and its Implications in Animal Assisted Therapy. I am also a member of the curriculum committee for the Delta Society / Pet Partners to create mini courses for AAT with veterans. Lastly, I work as a therapist through the Macomb County Juvenile Justice system, working with juvenile sex offenders and reunification when the offenses occur within the family. My education is in Teaching and Counseling. I am certified as a Trauma and Loss Specialist through the Trauma and Loss Institute (Starr Commonwealth) and dog trainer through Council for Certification of Pet Dog Trainers..
Nicole Pawlowski-Herr (Lead Program Facilitator) Simply put, I love animals. They add a richness to my life that is beyond words. I have always been interested in behavior and the “why” behind how people and animals behave. This led me to a degree in Psychology and Behavior and is my motivation for training and working with “not-so-perfect” dogs. Once I moved to Michigan I started working with Silver Lake Animal Rescue League, and then in 2005 joined the Michigan Humane Society as part of the Behavior Helpline. Volunteering with these two organizations has been rewarding and has fed my desire to keep learning and studying cat and dog behavior. In 2008, we created Herr Pet Training and specialize in the needs of the not-so-perfect dog. We have become avid educators, doing what we can to help owners keep pets in their forever homes. I am blessed share my life with my dog-trainer husband Brian and our furry clan: Tully, KittyPants and Bella (a Teacher’s Pet dog!). Teacher’s Pet has been an amazing experience for me so far …I learn so much about (and from!) these kids. Teaching them to give adoptable dogs the skills to shine is a great bonus! Nothing has been better than witnessing the moment when a kid and their dog truly connect, when the walls come down and they really begin to trust each other.
Rachel Gentz (Lead Program Facilitator) I have been fostering and volunteering for rescues and shelters for many years and I am the Dog Trainer and Rescue Coordinator for the Humane Society of Macomb. I always ended up with the dog that no one else wanted to take because of behavior problems. My first foster failure, Homer, and his significant behavioral challenges is what led me to earn my certification through Animal Behavior College and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. I was thrilled to start working with the kids at Teacher's Pet because I can relate to making bad choices and overcoming them. The bond that is created between the kids and dogs and the progress they make together is something that can not be put into words. Dogs have made such an impact on my life, it is truly an honor to make even the slightest impact on the kids' and dogs' lives. Each session I learn more from the kids than I think I can ever teach them! I am so lucky to be a part of the Teacher's Pet family. I love that we collaborate with other groups, rescues and shelters. There is always something new to learn and if we all work together great things can happen!
Patricia Miottel (JJC Program Liaison)
My mom always said that if there was ever a cry for help, it hit my ears first. If there’s an underdog (pun intended), I’m pulling for it. I’ve worked at the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center since 2007, and everyday I learn something new. When I was asked to be part of the Teacher’s Pet program, I jumped at it. It’s amazing to see the bond that is formed, but I’m not at all surprised. Most of the dogs we get from the shelter are strays or have been abused. When the kids learn that nobody cared that their dog--their family member--was on the streets, cold and hungry, or missing an ear becauseit was used as bait, they can unfortunately relate. But when they see the dogs learn to trust humans again, and love unconditionally, it gets me EVERY time. In the end, all of the participants, human and canine, become survivors, not victims. I am so lucky towork with these wonderful ladies, and am so grateful to Amy for bringing this amazing program to the JJC. To truly believe in what you do, and to be a part of the magic is awesome. My husband and I are also grateful because they introduced us to our two “kids”, Teacher’s Pet graduates, Minxy and Hamlet.
Lisa Rabine (Program Facilitator)
Since I was a little girl I’ve been bringing home stray cats and dogs, even a rabbit now and then. As a kid I spent most my weekend at my Great Grandparents farm where there were several dogs and probably 20 cats to play with! In high school I got my first job working at the Centerline Veterinary Clinic. Since then I worked several different kinds of jobs trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing with me life. Then, about 5 years ago, I had an opportunity to go back to school and have since become a certified dog trainer. I met Amy Johnson when I was trying to find volunteer work. I started volunteering at Kamp K9. During my first Kamp K9 I became a first time foster parent and quickly became a foster failure by adopting Lukas, a Siberian Husky. After Kamp K9 I was invited to help out at Kingsley Montgomery in Waterford. I was hooked and knew I had finally found my destiny! I am currently working at the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center and absolutely LOVE it! The kids there are amazing and we have met and trained some great dogs, all which have found their “forever homes”. One of my newer students asked me the other day if I like my job. I told her “It’s not a job, it’s a privilege to be here with you, the other kids, and the dogs, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”I also have three kids at home that are already great dog trainers!
Diane Shekell (Foster Coordinator / Lead Program Facilitator)
When I first started the Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) certification program at Oakland University, I had no idea what a positive impact it would have on my life. I was interested in taking my dog to nursing homes and thought it would be a good idea to learn more about the human-animal bond. While working through the modules of the course, I learned about Teacher’s Pet so I went to observe a class first hand. It was an extraordinary experience. It was so impressive to watch all the kids train their dogs with such care and compassion. Every interaction was a positive one. The shelter dogs were getting a lot of kind words, attention and treats from the kids. It was clear that both the dogs and the kids enjoyed being together and were learning many things from each other. Since becoming part of the Teacher’s Pet program, I have received my AAT certification and have become a certified dog trainer. I have also completed a shelter dog practicum and enjoy keeping up on the latest information in this field. I am so happy to have found a place where I can share my love of all animals in a classroom setting. I feel very lucky to be here!
Heidi Ochoa (Program Facilitator) Growing up I always knew that my life would be dedicated to animals. I didn't know how and I didn't know what I was meant to do until I took the plunge to become a certified dog trainer. Ever since then my life has gone to the dogs and I love it! After having my externship with Teacher's pet while I was going to school at ABC (Animal Behavior College) I knew I had found my calling. Since then I haven't looked back. I get so much fulfillment working with these incredible dogs and children. It is impossible to do this job and not absolutely love it. The challenges that come with every new dog and new child are what I live for. I work as a dog groomer during the day and a dog trainer at night. Now every part of my life is surrounded by dogs in some way and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Willow Schlachter (Program Facilitator) My background is unique in the Teacher’s Pet world. My career is in finance. I’m a CPA, MBA and currently CFO at EEI Global, Inc. So I bring a different skill set to the board; a business and finance focus. I started volunteering for Teacher’s Pet in 2010 and was quickly hooked. I’d always had dogs and thought I knew something about training. Really I was clueless. I wanted to learn more, so I worked to get certified in Animal Assisted Therapy and Dog Training. Now Teacher’s Pet is a big part of my life and I’m really passionate about it! I learn something new from the amazing TP staff every week. And learn more from the kids. I’ve seen, through the magic of the Human Animal Bond, major transformation in the kids (dogs too). Sometimes it’s the first time these kids have bonded with someone. Powerful. Being part of that is a blessing and an honor.
Meagan Mommersteeg I’ve always had a passion for nonprofits, making it my personal mission to stay involved both through my professional and volunteer work. I have a particular interest in organizations that focus on the betterment of kids and animals. That’s why becoming involved in Teacher’s Pet was a perfect fit! I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Oakland University. Currently, I’m a senior advertising specialist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. In my free time, I enjoy relaxing at home in Oakland Township with my “boys” – my husband and our adopted dogs, Frankie and Randy. I also love traveling, yoga, running, wine, good food and reading.
Savannah Patterson (Office Coordinator) As a lifelong dog and cat owner, animals have always had a major impact on me. Currently, I am an Environmental Science major at Oakland University, which will give me the opportunity to spend my career giving back to the earth and the creatures that reside on it. I began volunteering at the Michigan Animal Rescue League last year, and ever since I knew that I wanted to integrate working with animals into my life in any way possible. I was very fortunate to have been offered the Office Coordinator position at Teacher’s Pet, and look forward to learning more about how the dogs and kids make such a strong impact in each other’s lives!
Brian Herr (IT Manager)