A teacher is a teacher, even when he's wearing a military uniform.
That was the lesson learned by four fifth-graders at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School late last month.
The students, part of the leadership class, wanted to do something to show their support for their math teacher Dave McMasters, who is serving with the Nevada Air National Guard in Baghdad, Iraq.
But, when they asked him what he needed, his answer surprised them. He told them he didn't need anything for him, but wanted stuffed animals to give to the children caught in a war zone.
"He's serving our country and so we wanted to honor him and what he is doing, so we started collecting animals," said Gehrig Tucker, 11.
The students started a drive at Bordewich-Bray to collect the animals, hoping to generate 200 from the students and staff by March 13.
At last count, they had collected more than 650.
"We never expected to get this many," said Jackie Geraets-Rauh, leadership advisor. "What we really need now is help with the shipping costs to get them overseas."
The students said they didn't know a lot about Iraq, but they thought sending the animals might help.
"There are a lot of bombs and the kids there are less fortunate, so we hope we can help them a little," said Kyle Sharp, 10.
Eleven-year-old Aaron Cowee said that anything good that children here can do to help is a good thing and he is optimistic things will get better.
"I saw on the news that the kids finally feel safe enough to go outside. They have started to play soccer in the streets again," Aaron said.
While the students said they felt bad for the children, a lot of their concern was with their teacher.
"We want to tell (Mr. McMasters) thanks for going to Iraq and protecting us and thanks for the good advice that lets us help these kids," Gehrig said.
Sharp added, "We wish that he was back here safe and teaching math again."
Anyone wishing to make a donation, either of an animal or to help with shipping costs can call Geraets-Rauh at 283-2450.
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.