Normally a teacher is not treated like a celebrity in his or her own classroom.
Unless, of course, he waits until the school year is almost over before coming to class.That's what George Hunter, an art teacher at Forbes Elementary School, did. But he had no choice. As a member of the National Guard's 120th Quartermaster Detachment, Hunter has spent the past eight months in Saudi Arabia purifying water. He left for Saudi Arabia the day before school started.
So when Hunter showed up Thursday at Forbes for his first teaching day of the year, students thought he was quite the celebrity. Decked out in his camouflage gear, he spent the day answering questions and signing autographs.
"I think right now they kind of look at me like a hero, but that should wear off in a couple of days," Hunter said.
Students asked Hunter about the different fighter planes, the living conditions, whether he visited with President Bush, if he saw any snakes, if he saw anyone die and what exactly he did over there. He said his unit purified about 150,000 gallons of water a day and that soldiers would drink about five gallons a day.
"If you think you have a hard time sleeping through the night without having to go to the bathroom, you ought to try it drinking five gallons of water a day," he told students.
Hunter said having a teacher be part of the Persian Gulf war has been educational to the students. Besides knowing more about the war, the students have become better letter writers and know more about geography and about social studies. More important to Hunter, it has taught the students about patriotism.
"You live in a good country, and don't you forget it," he told the students.
Hunter is the third Alpine School District teacher to return from the Persian Gulf. Arlen Runolfson, a special assignment teacher, and Wilford Mueller, a teacher at Mountain View High School, returned last month. Both were members of Company A of the National Guard's 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, activated in January.
Like Hunter, Mueller said he received a warm welcome when he returned. He also said his experience will make him a better teacher.
"It was definitely an educational experience and will be something that I can share with others and something that will help me in my classroom," he said.
Four other Alpine teachers are still serving in the Persian Gulf. James Johnson, a teacher at Orem High School, is a member of the Army Reserve's 328th General Hospital and was activated in early December. Larry Dean, a teacher at Aspen Elementary School; Robert Harmer, a Grove Crest Elementary School teacher; and John Poole, an Alpine Elementary School teacher, are all members of the National Guard's 1457th Engineers Battalion and were activated in late January. They are expected to return in June.