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Roxboro Road Elementary Builds Community with “International” Help

Students at Roxboro Road Elementary School have had a “international” visitor to their school this year as an “Aussie” has come to call. The guest, Sydney, is a 16 year-old Australian Shepard. Sydney’s human, Natalie Walters, is the school’s new Restorative Practices Specialist. Sydney has been joining Natalie at the school some Friday mornings.   

Natalie Walters began her new career in the North Syracuse Central School District this year as one of two Restorative Practices Specialists (RPS) to join the District. Both RPS staff work out of the schools on the Roxboro Road Campus and are part of the District’s targeted efforts to address social emotional needs.  

Lisa Goldberg, the NSCSD’s Director of Social Emotional Learning, explains the work of Restorative Practices. “All humans are hardwired to connect. Just as we need food, shelter and clothing, we also need strong and meaningful relationships,” Lisa said. “Our specialists are in place to help students and staff build and nurture those essential relationships.”

As Roxboro Road Elementary School’s RPS, Natalie’s job is to work with students, families and staff to build a strong community of healthy and caring individuals working together. As schools recover from the pandemic, Natalie understands that students’ social skills have been challenged so she thought she could use Sydney’s help to build connections.

Natalie says, “Sydney is my best friend and has had previously worked in several capacities as a comfort dog in my former positions. She a special soul and has a way of getting people to open up. She’s everything I wish I could be.”
Natalie spoke with RRE Principal Matt Motala about having Sydney visit and with his enthusiastic consent, Sydney began her visits. Natalie shares that Sydney has long been interacting with students and that she seems to love people more than she does dogs. Sydney began her “career” escorting the Mexico Marching Band down parade routes, making sure everyone cheered on the kids.
Natalie says that after a long work life working in various roles with students and staff, Sydney “retired” as doggie dean of students from a different school district when Natalie left there. Natalie is grateful to Sydney for all the people she’s helped and was excited to have her do the same for the Roxboro Road Elementary School Community.
Natalie said, “It was great to have her to come to "work" with me. Her visits have been welcomed with rave reviews. Sydney is definitely the best friend I could ask for and it is great to have others learn from her what it means to be a good friend.”