By day, Donna Speck teaches students at the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center (SAHEC) about the Periodic Table of Elements, chemical bonding and balancing chemical equations.
But when she’s not in the classroom, her students are a whole different breed.
Speck, an instructor of chemistry at SAHEC, is a master hunter-level judge for the American Kennel Club (AKC). She has trained, handled and judged hunting retrievers since November 1997.
As a judge for the AKC, Speck is required to handle and qualify a dog for a title, apprentice with an experienced judge and pass a written test every three years concerning rules. She also serves as the recording secretary for the local Bootheel Retriever Club.
“My favorite part of judging is watching the dogs work and obey their trainers,” Speck said. “I also enjoy meeting new people and seeing the testing areas around the country because wildlife conservation areas are mainly used for the events.”
AKC retriever hunting tests are divided into three divisions- -junior, senior and master. At the master level, judges require the dog to retrieve difficult marking situations, such as three or more birds down. The dogs must honor another dog's retrieve and exhibit those qualities expected in a truly finished and experienced hunting retriever.
Speck works mainly with Labrador and Golden Retrievers. She focuses on training the dogs to mark the fall of a bird and obey a handler’s commands. Speck encourages obedience with her training and teaches the dogs to obey the handler at all times, find and retrieve the bird, and follow and retrieve a crippled bird.
In addition to training retrievers, Speck has taught basic chemistry at SAHEC since 1998. Before going into higher education, she managed and worked in clinical labs.
“SAHEC is great for the area because it provides local classes for the students in and around the Sikeston area,” Speck said.
She uses one-on-one interaction with her SAHEC students, viewing herself as more of a facilitator in the classroom. She focuses on helping students develop problem-solving skills through lab work.