INDIO, Calif. - A Desert Sands Unified School teacher is leaving the classroom to go serve in Afghanistan. Our cameras were there as she said goodbye to her students Friday afternoon.
Lena Swartz, a parent volunteer, says, "'Amazing' is the word for her. If you just go out there and you see the kids' reaction to her, it's incredible."
Michelle Cherland has been teaching at Carillo Ranch Elementary School since it opened eight years ago.
Swartz says, "I am really happy that I got to know her and that she has taught my child."
Jerry Moya, a parent volunteer, says, "She means more to my family than you could even imagine."
Cherland is also an Army reservist and has been for more than 20 years.
"I just feel like I can help people that are little people, and I can help people that are in Third World countries and in need. I couldn't imagine not doing both my careers all my life," says Cherland.
It's her career as a soldier that is taking center stage now.
Cherland says, "It is just so hard to say goodbye, especially because you get so close to these kids. I was hoping not to bond, and I did."
Mrs. Cherland says she knows her deployment will make a difference in her students' lives.
"If this is going to help my schoolkids and my own children not to have to go to war, I'll do it again and again. No children of mine are going to have to live in fear," says Cherland.
Her 400-day deployment will also take her away from her husband and seven children.
Cherland says, "My family is such a support system, and my husband is a rock, and my kids have always been so supportive, that it feels like I am always doing the right thing."
While the kids and parents of Room 807 will miss her, they are proud of her service.
Moya says, "I think that it just shows the kids that you can do everything, whatever your heart's desires, you can continue to do whatever you want. Whether its serving your country or being an educator or doing anything else, you have the power to be who you want to be."
Swartz says, "Thank you for your service. Thank you for being you. Thank you for loving all the children, not just mine al of them like they are your own."
Moya says, "She will be missed. She is a great lady."
Cherland says, "I am proud to wear the uniform, and I am proud of my kids."
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