Pet ownership often introduces responsibility, a sense of pride and basic learning opportunities into a child’s life. Then again, sometimes it sparks something much bigger.
For Carol Klages, associate professor with the University of Houston-Victoria’s School of Education & Human Development, a childhood menagerie of dogs, rabbits, hamsters and more led to a lifelong passion for helping four-legged friends.
The Victoria native has devoted 19 years to Adopt-A-Pet, a Victoria rescue organization aimed at rehabilitating homeless animals and connecting them with just-right families. That work eventually expanded further into the community.
Klages and members of what was then Victoria’s Stroman High School Student Council made visits to nursing homes and hospitals, her trusty black lab – a registered therapy dog – in tow. Although her sidekick has since passed away, the visits brought comfort to those in need.
Klages teaches undergraduate teacher education courses, such as “Effective Social Studies Instruction,” “Adolescent Literature” and “Components of Effective Literacy Instruction.” Her research interests are in teacher reflective practices, instructional strategies and new illiteracies.
The longtime educator even incorporates animals into her classroom lessons. During her years teaching high school, Klages’ dog became an integral part of her economics lessons. She still goes into classrooms to educate children about pet care, animal safety and how to approach a dog.
“I’ll even have kids read to my dogs,” she said with a chuckle. “The kids really seem to enjoy it. It gets them reading, but it’s something different.”
Not all of Klages’ volunteer time goes to the animal kingdom, however. She also works as a surrogate parent for the Victoria Independent School District, supporting those in foster care or residential treatment facilities.
“I’m there to look out for them and promote their best interests,” she said. “These are kids who might not have parents, but do have special needs. You want to help them out.”
Klages earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Seguin’s Texas Lutheran College.
She went on to obtain two master’s degrees in English from UHV and elementary reading and literacy from Walden University, and a doctorate in curriculum studies from the University of Texas at Austin.
Klages said she encourages others to find a cause close to their hearts and get involved. Whether that’s working with animals, reading programs or anything in between, giving just a little can make a big difference.
“Think about how you can make the community a better place,” she said. “Whatever your passion is, go with it. That way, you share that positivity with other people.”
As for her, she said she’s happy doing exactly what she does now. Adopt-A-Pet does good work, and it’s rewarding to know she’s making a difference.
“I will stay with Adopt-A-Pet until the day I die or until there are no more homeless animals –whichever comes first,” she said.
The Faculty Feature is an online feature highlighting faculty members from each of the University of Houston-Victoria’s four schools. To nominate a faculty member, contact Paula Cobler, UHV interim director of marketing and communications, or call 361-570-4350.