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Dover-Eyota Elementary students get extra help from a ‘robot teacher’

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Robot teacher

EYOTA, Minn. (KTTC) -- The Hiawatha Valley Education District in Winona recently hired a special remote disabilities teacher who works through a robot named Leopold.

Julie Cunningham-Henise is a physical and health disabilities consultant. She used to live in southeastern Minnesota, but right now lives in York, Pennsylvania. Her position is difficult to fill so the district got creative. She’s now also a robot handler, which allows her to engage students from several states away.

She “lives” in Leopold and controls him, rolling along school halls and helping students. Leopold is a Double Robot and is made by a company in California. Her is role is to be an extra support for students and teachers in the Dover-Eyota School district and Wabasha-Kellogg schools. It’s a unique way to engage students, as if she was really there in person. 

"On a personal level, I enjoy it," Cunningham-Henise said. "It's like being there in person. I really enjoyed living in Minnesota, and I have a lot of friends there. It was fun seeing kids and interacting with them. I find that I'm treated more like a person. It sounds odd, but because I'm in this form and I can move people interact different than if I'm on a flat screen on Zoom."

Cunningham-Henise controls Leopold through a series of dots she can see on her computer screen. The robot will be in the schools about 12 hours a week.

Cunningham-Henise said Leopold costs about $4,000.

Megan Zemple

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