Master Sgt. Linda Adams has been an elementary school teacher for the past four years.
After just one day on the job in the current school year, however, she departed on a four month deployment to Southwest Asia with her Air Force Reserve unit from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.
"I was able to say 'hi' to my new class and then I was off," Adams, 746th Aircraft Maintenance Unit support section NCO in charge, said.
But this teacher has bridged the distance by keeping up with her students online. Adams' school, Kate Shepard Elementary in Mobile, Ala., maintains a blog site where students can write to and speak with local officials.
"They talk to different people like congressmen or school superintendents," Adams said, "It's a good way for them to learn writing skills and work on their communication skills."
When Adams left for her deployment, the school invited her to join the site.
"We are so excited that Ms. Adams is sharing her experiences with our students," said Kate Shepard Elementary Principal (Dr.) Michelle Dumas. "Communicating through the blog allows students to utilize technology and expand their global awareness."
Since her arrival in Southwest Asia, Adams said students have been sending her e-mails, pictures and letters. "I try my best to answer all of them," she said.
Some students have told her about relatives that serve in the armed forces. For those who don't have military family members, Adams has taken the opportunity to not only help with academic questions, but also to educate her students about the Air Force and its mission.
"The boys will ask questions like, 'what kind of gun do you have?' or 'do you drive a tank?'," she said.
"They think of the Air Force and they think of planes, so I'm always asked if I'm a pilot. I tell the kids not everyone is a pilot, and I talk to them about my job as an aircraft mechanic along with other careers in the Air Force."
Adams said her students also often ask about life in Southwest Asia. "They've asked about the country, what it looks like and what they have here," she said. "I tell them there are malls, sports and music here just like at home. I sent a picture of me riding a camel and they were real excited about that."
Previously, Adams taught fifth grade students. This year, she was assigned to a kindergarten class and only had a brief time with her new pupils before deploying.
"Knowing I had to deploy, I didn't even tell them I was their teacher because I didn't want to worry them," she said. "They had more important things to think about than their teacher being gone for four months." However, she recently sent her new class a video of herself reading a storybook to them.
"The school's principal asked me to interact with them while here because when I come home, they won't be new students anymore," she said. "I don't want them to wonder who I am when I walk in."
In the meantime, her former and other students are enjoying the opportunity to communicate with Adams.
"We have learned a lot about Ms. Adams' job in the Air Force by talking to her on the blog," said Rueben, a fourth grade student. "I have learned that not everyone in the Air Force is a pilot and carries a gun."
"We love to keep in touch with Ms. Adams on the blog because we really miss her," said Ebony, another fourth grader. "Our entire school is proud of her defending our country, but we can't wait for her to come back home to teaching."