CHAPLAIN Tina Lowther uses a teddy bear known as Mr Sniffles to help Canning Vale Primary School students deal with stress and anxiety.
Mrs Lowther’s off-sider is involved in a variety of activities, including a ‘community circle’ to encourage students in three classes at the school to reflect and share their thoughts in a safe way.
The Kelmscott resident was a teacher at Armadale Primary School where she also used a bear in class.
“It’s all the heart stuff I love so I went and studied to be a counsellor and qualified to be a chaplain,” she said.
Canning Vale Primary School is heavily focusing on protective behaviours and two other bears have been added at the school so there’s access everywhere for children to write down their concerns and get a written response.
Mr Sniffles’ brother, Mr Snuffles, sits in on Year 2 classes, and their cousin Charlie is now in the library.
Mrs Lowther says she has received hundreds of letters via Mr Sniffles in the past two and a half years and has done more than 1000 one-on-one sessions, referring on to other services where needed.
The school also has a psychologist but Mrs Lowther says her role as chaplain is with the broken-hearted – those often grieving family break-ups or anxiety and life worries.
Teachers might flag a child, or parents may contact Mrs Lowther directly and she spends plenty of time in class, with her room open during lunch breaks.
“Notes range from general, friendly and relational to a need for someone to talk to or a need for help,” Mrs Lowther said.
“It often leads to an awareness of things that are happening before they escalate like friendship concerns, bullying, grief, anxiety, family, especially when a child is struggling with an issue they’re reluctant to share with an adult.
Mr Sniffles also sits between Mrs Lowther and the child in one-to-one pastoral conversations.
“He provides security, a reassuring barrier between myself and them, and a comforting tool during conversational exploration,” Mrs Lowther said.
“Mr Sniffles is definitely well loved.”
Year 3 teacher Gemma White said Tina’s contribution to the school was invaluable for both students and staff.
“Tina has been working with us every week using stories, affirmations, guided meditations, sharing circles and group discussions to teach the children ways to manage worries and stress,” Ms White said.