By Amanda Wolkin

Dr. Doris Beardsley was not quite ready to let go of teaching high achievers after retiring from a 28-year education career.

So, she turned to a completely new classroom of students: Vizsla puppies—or, as she calls them, her “fur kids.”

“[My family] loved my daughter’s dog and ended up breeding her,” said Beardsley, a Brookhaven resident and. “Now I’m raising 10 puppies instead of talented and gifted students.”

Beardsley has successfully paper-trained all the puppies using psychologist’s B. F. Skinner’s theory of positive reinforcement—the same theory she applied when educating her DeKalb County Discovery, or high-achieving, students and teachers.

After an impressive career marked by accolades including DeKalb County’s Elementary Teacher of the Year in 1993-1994, Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Honor Teacher in 2002 and U.S. Delegate and Presenter for the China-U.S. Conference on “Multiple Intelligences, Problem Solving and Creativity,” the combination of Skinner and her belief in a “nurturing, supportive learning environment” has obviously been working out well for Beardsley.

“The highlight was becoming Elementary Teacher of the Year,” said Beardsley. “It was amazing to be recognized by peers and to prove that you can have play in the classroom and really be learning.”

Beardsley has used this playful approach to learning in 10 schools as both a gifted education teacher and professional learning instructor, including at Montgomery Elementary School.

While she was never given the opportunity for her ultimate goal — to work with DeKalb County teachers full-time as a gifted instructional coach — she has designed her own course for teachers to become reflective educators and teaches a 10-week online course, “High Achievers Program,” to DeKalb’s educators who want to learn effective strategies for teaching gifted students.

“I love teaching, no matter if it’s kids, teachers or puppies,” said Beardsley in a phone interview in which dogs could be heard barking in the background. “And now, when people see how attached I am to my puppies, they always comment, ‘This reminds me of you and your students!’”

As with children, Beardsley believes that exercise is an important component for wellness and health for dogs. Each day, her pups get up to two hours of playtime and have a bedtime of 11 p.m.

Beardsley has already found families for her puppies, which will be ready for purchase by Thanksgiving.

If you are interested in Beardsley’s training techniques, contact her at docbeardsley@comcast.net