MJ Wixsom: Teaching what she knows

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 30, 2024

For the past two school years, I have escaped my office on Wednesday afternoons to teach gifted and talented fifth graders.
Veterinarians are popular classroom visitors. In the vast tapestry of veterinary science, every thread represents a unique facet of our shared understanding of the natural world.
My role is a great teaching gig! I don’t have to file lesson plans. I don’t have to grade. I can teach anything.
So we have covered things from ancient civilizations to modern-day marvels, each lesson has been a journey of exploration and discovery, guided by the timeless principles of honesty, integrity, and diligence.
My purpose is to teach them that while being a gifted kid that doesn’t quite fit in can be uncomfortable, being a gifted adult can be pretty cool. Maybe I can even prevent a gifted teen suicide.
Several of our lessons started with one of my trips or adventures.
Our odyssey began with a glimpse into the wisdom of the Incas and their three laws: don’t lie, don’t steal and don’t be lazy.
These foundational principles served as the cornerstone of our classroom ethos, setting the stage for a journey of learning rooted in respect, honesty, and a commitment to excellence.
We delved into the world of operant training with kittens, exploring the power of positive reinforcement in shaping animal behavior.
Through hands-on activities and interactive demonstrations, students gained insight into the science behind training techniques, fostering empathy and understanding for our feline friends. We followed kittens with guinea pig behavior.
Our exploration of bats took flight as we ventured outdoors to experience echolocation firsthand.
With blindfolds as our guide, we tuned into the echoes of sound waves bouncing off objects, gaining a newfound appreciation for the incredible sensory abilities of these nocturnal creatures.
From heartworms to rabies, we delved into the intricacies of disease prevention and control, drawing upon real-life experiences from my volunteer work in Africa. Through videos and discussions, students gained insight into the challenges facing communities and the vital role of veterinary medicine in safeguarding public health.
Our classroom transformed into a platform for social change as we explored the concept of microloans and their transformative impact on communities worldwide.
Through interactive exercises, students became agents of change, selecting projects to fund and witnessing firsthand the power of compassion and collaboration.
As we journeyed through the seven habits of highly effective people with the wisdom of Steven Covey, students embraced the power of vision boards as tools for goal setting and personal growth.
With creativity and enthusiasm, they crafted visions for their futures, inspired by the limitless possibilities that lie ahead.
From the rugged terrain of the Iditarod to the pristine shores of the Galapagos Islands, we embarked on virtual expeditions fueled by curiosity and wonder.
Through immersive experiences and hands-on activities, students discovered the interconnectedness of life on Earth and their role as stewards of the planet.
Our classroom became a sanctuary for birds of prey as Jean Luc, my Saker falcon, and kestrels graced us with their presence. Through the ancient art of falconry, students gained insight into the unique bond between humans and raptors, fostering a deeper appreciation for the natural world.
One day we finished early and added a lively game of “Stump the Vet,” students put their newfound knowledge to the test, challenging me with thought-provoking questions and engaging in spirited debates.
And as we wrapped up our journey with a combination lesson on plastics in the environment and scuba techniques (from my recent open water certification), I added a final reminder about the benefits of kindness.
As I reflect on our journey together, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to inspire and empower the next generation of veterinarians, scientists and global citizens.
Through the magic of education, we have woven together a tapestry of knowledge that will endure for years to come, shaping the minds and hearts of those who dare to dream and explore.
In the end, it is not just the facts and figures that matter, but the journey of discovery and the bonds forged along the way.
And as we part ways, I am reminded that the greatest gift we can give our students is not just knowledge, but the tools to navigate the ever-changing landscape of life with curiosity, courage, and compassion. I know I have changed some lives.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566

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