DECATUR, Ill. — Ted the baby pig didn’t care for being held by a stranger.
“I don’t know, he just freaked out,” said Lauryn Layette, an eighth-grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School who tried, unsuccessfully, to pig-sit during the school’s assembly Tuesday. Classmate Quincey Watts pretended to recoil from the smell of pig that he said was still on her clothing.
Principal Nate Sheppard was scheduled to give Ted a smooch to reward the students who made it to class on time every day during Illinois Standards Achievement Tests the past two weeks. Someone on staff suggested a “kiss the pig” event, and Sheppard agreed.
[PHOTO: In this March 25, 2014, photo, eighth-grader Lauryn Layette clings to a squirming pig as principal Nate Sheppard prepares to kiss it during an assembly at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Decatur, Ill. Thomas Jefferson students who were on time every day of ISAT testing were rewarded by getting to watch their principal pucker up to the pig. (AP Photo/Herald & Review, Jim Bowling)]
“It’s an incentive to the school,” he said. “In our scheduling, we’re very tight on time, and we really need students to move quickly from class to class, and we were trying to think of ideas to motivate the kids to get to class on time.”
Sheppard said he’s willing to do whatever it takes, and he’s been taking a lot of good-natured teasing.
“The kids have been razzing me,” he said with a chuckle. “Better pucker up! Better get ready! So it’s been a good time.”
Math teacher Melissa Poland lives on a farm, and her children raise pigs, so she brought Ted, who was born in January.
Ted snoozed through most of the event, but when Lauryn picked him up, he objected strenuously, complete with high-pitched squealing, and Poland had to hold him for Sheppard.
“I won’t lie,” Sheppard said solemnly to the students at the assembly. “About 10 minutes ago, I started to get really nervous.”
Amid the hoots and hollers of unsympathetic middle school students, Sheppard bravely approached the little piggy and went in for a kiss.
Afterward, a student high-fived him but asked why he didn’t kiss Ted on the mouth. At the last minute, Sheppard bypassed it and bestowed his buss on Ted’s muzzle.
“I lost my nerve,” Sheppard said. “I put lip balm on so my lips would be softer than the pig’s, and I was going to kiss him on the snout, but I couldn’t do it.”
Another student asked him “How was it?”
Sheppard’s answer, “Hairy.”