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Teachers struggle to care for turtles, tortoises and other class pets during pandemic

Megan Henry, The Columbus Dispatch on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As teachers pivoted to online learning last school year, some faced a unique challenge: What would happen to their class pets?

Central Ohio teachers scrambled to find surrogate homes for their turtles, bearded dragons and other class pets last spring and, in some cases, again over the summer.

“Those are some of the pandemic things people don’t think about,” said Katie Guehl, a fourth-grade teacher at Indian Run Elementary School in Dublin.

She has had her class pet, Daphne Phyllis, a red-eared slider turtle for almost 20 years.

“She is a little staple,” Guehl said of the roughly 25- to 30-year-old turtle named by her students after studying mythology. “The kids know her and … are excited to befriend her. They may not remember my math lesson at the end of the day, but they’ll remember feeding the turtle.”

When COVID-19 shuttered schools in March 2020, Daphne Phyllis went between the houses of two students during the spring and summer months.


Guehl, who is still teaching students remotely because of parent requests, brought Daphne Phyllis back to the classroom this past fall and starts every school day by wheeling her laptop on a cart right up to the tank.

“Class pets are definitely more fun when you have the children in the room,” said Guehl, who has been teaching for 24 years.

Tortoise on the loose

When schools closed last spring, Rich Ladowitz, a biology and environmental science teacher at Reynoldsburg High School, remembers thinking, "What are we going to do with Mya?”


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