Member Spotlight: Brenda Fiorini
Retired Teacher, Author, and Humane Educator
How did you get involved in Humane Education?
Early on in my teaching career, I happened to be reading my local newspaper one day and stumbled upon an article that hit me like a ton of bricks. A young boy had been arrested for animal cruelty as a means of seeking acceptance into a gang. Realizing how impressionable school age kids are, I took this as a sign that humane education must become part of my purpose as a school teacher. I was now working directly in the arena with such young vulnerable people; I knew I could be someone to help influence their choices and hopefully save them from making grave mistakes, like choosing to be in a gang or to hurt innocent animals. I hoped that my efforts would maybe save lives - humans and animals.
I began my journey by visiting my local animal shelter, Granny Rose Animal Shelter in Dixon, Illinois. I got involved with volunteering, helping with animal rescue efforts, fundraising, and I even sat on their board for a few years, but most of all, I began to incorporate humane activities into my classrooms. My computer students designed adoption flyers for shelter cats and dogs that we hung in local businesses; I organized a "Pennies for Pets" fundraising campaign in several elementary and high school buildings; we took field trips to the shelter; and the list goes on. I wanted my students to have real-world assignments, to engage in community service, and to learn how shelter staff and volunteers devote time to helping homeless, innocent, voiceless animals. I wanted kids to see that choices they make should be about helping others, not hurting others, especially animals. I was planting the seeds of kindness.
What projects or programs are you currently working on?
A decade later, we moved to another town. I landed a new teaching position, and we started a family which pulled me away from shelter involvement for some time. Still, I knew that humane education was in my bones and I was destined to make a difference for kids and animals.
A colleague encouraged me to write and publish a story; she knew that I loved animals and children’s books. What a great idea! Writing stories and curriculum was my niche. This was going to be my new way to help kids develop kindness and compassion toward animals. I went to work researching and learning all that I could about the process of writing and publishing children’s books. My love of words and poetry resulted in Rescue Pup and Rescue Kitty. I gained many connections along the way and am grateful for those people and resources. I went back to my roots at Granny Rose Animal Shelter and presented the books. Long story short, I partnered with them in 2013 and developed a humane education program for our regional area. I named it Read! Write! Rescue!
I couldn’t just stop with the storybooks. As a teacher, I had to create a literacy curriculum and other fun activities to supplement the stories Rescue Pup and Rescue Kitty, (now available on my website www.sites.google.com/view/pet-jouney-press). I secured sponsors to fund our project and contacted every elementary school in three counties: Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside of Illinois. The shelter serves this tri-county area. With 100% participation, I delivered Rescue Pup and Rescue Kitty books to 32 elementary schools; 85 teachers; and almost 2000 first grade students for six years until COVID hit.
I have since created my stories as ebooks and now everyone in the world can have access to the stories electronically by visiting my website! What makes these stories memorable are the rhyming verse. Kids are more likely to return to a book that is poetic and fun to read again and again. This is critical because that is exactly what I hope kids will do with Rescue Pup and Rescue Kitty not just to practice and improve literacy skills, but because of the message in these books: kindness and responsibility toward animals.
How have you grown your program?
I wrote a third story titled Puppy Love Promises. This story is written in haiku from a dog’s perspective and addresses the human-animal bond as well as safety tips for living with babies, toddlers, and pets in the same household. I reference a wonderful resource in the book, www.FamilyPaws.com, and one of their programs called Dogs and Storks. We shared hundreds of Puppy Love Promises with organizations helping young families, and my local hospital also gave it to new mothers as a gift. My next two stories are currently ebook format only, but I hope to have them available in print in the future: A Groomer Gets Ready explains reasons dogs need to be groomed, and Doggy Jitters is a story about dogs and their fears due to sound sensitivities. All are written in fun poetic language, while considering important ideas about caring for a pet.
How did you become involved with APHE?
I joined APHE to connect with others who are making a difference. I want to reach out to humane educators and teachers everywhere to share my materials. I know that there are many, many amazing children’s books about humane education and lots of dedicated people have developed impactful lessons and programs for kids and communities. I believe that there can never be enough stories and resources to plant the seeds of kindness, compassion and responsibility toward animals. So, I open my doors to everyone at APHE to help build your resources and libraries. It is my contribution to helping animals, and my contribution to literacy.
What is your hope for the future of Humane Education?
It is my hope that all schools will incorporate humane education under the big umbrella of character education. There aren’t enough humane educators. We need school teachers to join the forces. It is my hope that by reading humane storybooks, a child, when faced with a choice to be kind or cruel, will choose kindness.
Do you have any advice?
When one small thing like reading an article drops a ton of bricks on you, take it as a sign. Don’t be a bystander. Be an upstander. We walk this earth for a short time, and animals even shorter. Find your niche in the world of humane education and make it count.The feeling you get is beyond rewarding!
About APHE’s Member Spotlight:
Each month, APHE seeks to spotlight members of the organization that has done one of the following:
Past Member Spotlights