HAWARDEN, Iowa (KTIV) -- Training is about to begin for 3,500 Iowa soldiers, who are part of the largest call-up for a single unit since World War II. One of those soldiers about to be deployed is a teacher in the West Sioux School District.
Wednesday afternoon, students and staff gathered to say goodbye, good luck, and much more.
When you're a teacher, you wear a lot of different hats.
"In his interview process, he warned me this might be a possibility," said West Sioux Elementary principal Ryan Kramer.
But fourth grade instructor Jason Knueven wears one that most others don't: soldier.
"In the first few days of classes, the kids realizing very quickly that he had a military background," Kramer said.
Mr. Knueven started his first-full time teaching job at West Sioux Elementary in Hawarden just last fall. As any good soldier would, he came into his new mission with a plan.
Knueven says, "To develop the class, mentor the class, teach the class and be a part of each students' life -- every single student's life. All of them."
All with a dose of discipline that only his background can bring. That's why students and staff broke out the red, white and blue to send him off on his last day of school.
Fourth Grader Ella Fuller says, "He was going to go to Afghanistan so we wanted to have a surprise for him."
"Pretty amazing, more than I expected," Knueven said.
For a military man, with a strong presence in the classroom and a soft side to match, it was almost too much.
"I was holding the tears back all day, I'll be honest with you. And when I walked in here, it was that much harder," Knueven said.
Knowing his lessons have stuck, and the examples he's set, won't make leaving any easier.
"All the good stuff he did for us and helped us learn," said Fourth Grader Nathaniel Bunge. "He's helping our country too."
"(To) have that one teacher and how that teacher had an impact or effect on their lives, for the rest of their lives, is what I was hoping for and there's no doubt in my mind, this year's class, we accomplished that mission," Knueven said.
Fourth Grader Danna Schipper says, "I'm really going to miss you, Mr. Knueven."
Captain Knueven serves with the 113th Cavalry out of Sioux City. Starting Thursday, he'll be preparing for deployment in August and he'll be in Afghanistan for a year. He previously served in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008.