Empire Elementary School students will lose their music teacher, Christina O'Neil, today for at least three weeks -- and they couldn't be more excited.
"She gets to be famous and she gets to have everything she wants," said fifth-grader Carlos Soriano, 10.
O'Neil, who captured the Miss Nevada title in June, is flying to Washington, D.C., at 6 this morning to compete for the Miss America crown Sept. 20.
If she wins, she will forfeit her position as music teacher to fulfill her duties as Miss America. If not, she will return to teaching Sept. 23.
"On one hand, I want her to win because she would get the crown she really wants," said Sara Bird, 10. "On the other hand, I wouldn't want her to become Miss America because then we wouldn't have her here."
O'Neil, a first-year teacher, won't be disappointed if she isn't crowned and must return to her career.
"I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 5 years old," she said. "I've been working toward this my entire life. This has been truly a dream come true for me."
O'Neil, 24, competed as Miss Gold Country, a pageant open to all Nevada girls, in Minden. She was crowned Miss Nevada this year after four attempts at the title and readily shares her story with her students.
"It's important for them to know that not everything in life comes on the first try," she said. "It takes a lot of work. It took me four years of trying to get that crown."
While she's away, Glenn Heath will take over her classroom. He said his impression of O'Neil hasn't been that of a beauty queen; rather, he's impressed by her teaching qualities.
"She's got a great personality and she's really good with the kids," he said.
Having O'Neil as her music teacher makes Lindsey Ashbaugh feel special.
"It seems like we're really lucky to have her," said Lindsey, 10. "It's like a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Other schools don't really get famous people."
O'Neil graduated from Carson High School in 1997 and is the daughter of John and Kay O'Neil. She has a sister, Kelly, 22.
She has balanced beginning her career with preparing for the pageant. She has family members ask random questions to practice interviewing skills and swims in blue jeans to tone her lower body for the swimsuit competition.
She has only one fear left:
"I'm so nervous about walking down all those stairs in 4-inch heels," she said.
If you watch:
What: Miss America
When: 8 p.m. on Sept. 20
Where: ABC, Channel 8