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Teacher Awards Young Readers, Kisses Bull

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Some teachers will do almost anything to get their students to read. Stu Johnson, a La Pine Middle School social studies teacher, proved it this week when he took a deep breath and kissed Boozer, a 1,200-pound bull.

For the last eight years, Johnson, 38, has put himself at the mercy of the school librarian to help celebrate Dr. Seuss´ March 2 birthday. The National Education Association has declared the day “Read Across America Day,” in honor of the popular children´s author.

Through the years, Johnson has splashed through a pool of Jell-O, been duct-taped to a wall and taken more than a few cherry pies in the face _ all in the name of reading.

The year he was taped to a wall, for example, students were handed various lengths of duct tape depending on the number of books they´d read in previous weeks.

One year, librarian Dail Pautz made Johnson eat a plate of neon-green eggs and ham, and sport a red-and-white striped hat and bow similar to those worn by the Cat in the Hat.

This year, Johnson was told ahead of time that he would have to kiss something, but he didn´t know what it was until Kassandra Russell, 15, brought the reluctant bull into the cafeteria.

,” he said later.

Students cheered when Johnson pecked the cow on top its snout. Boozer was less thrilled, bucking backward out of the cafeteria.

Russell, a 4-H member and 10th-grader at La Pine High School, said she didn´t mind that Boozer played hard to get.

“This is the second time we´ve ever taken him from home,” she said. “So that went really well.”

Pautz, the librarian, said the tradition started when she mentioned at a staff meeting that she was seeking volunteers to take a cherry pie in the face from students who met a reading challenge.

Johnson volunteered and then asked if he could be included in the next year´s celebration.

“He´s like a boomerang, he keeps coming back for more,” Pautz said.