CHAMPAIGN - Yvette Lane-Rose is spending quality time now with her sons, and they're talking a lot about mother's other job in the Army Reserves and where it may soon take her.
But Lane-Rose is having trouble figuring out how to break the news to her 24 fourth-graders at Dr. Howard Elementary School that any day now she may have to leave them for active duty, and that it could take her far from home into the heart of the looming war.
Meanwhile, her principal, Christie Brinkley, worries that Lane-Rose's specialty - chemicals - might land her right in the middle of the action.
?We've talked a lot about what's going on over there, I just haven't put myself in it,? Lane-Rose said of her reluctance to talk to her students about what's happening. ?They freak out if I go to a meeting!?
Lane-Rose is a captain in the 332nd Quartermaster Battalion based at Danville, and she has already been processed at Fort Snelling, Minn. She now is waiting for her orders, expected to arrive any day by Federal Express.
She is one of two Champaign school district teachers on alert. At Garden Hills Elementary School, special education teacher Leslie Sullivan also may have to leave - on 72-hour notice - although she hasn't been processed yet.
Sullivan is a member of the Air Force's 182nd Air Support Operations Center unit based at Peoria, and she said several members of her unit have already been shipped out ?to an undisclosed location.?
?We've done everything we can do to be prepared,? said Sullivan, who is a major assigned to intelligence.
Lane-Rose will leave behind 11-year-old Timothy, 8-year-old Jesse, 6-year-old Jalen and her husband, Jesse Rose.
?To see her go will be like a death in the school,? said Brinkley, who helped the school work its way through that kind of separation in 2000 when Lane-Rose's predecessor, Tim Stafford, died suddenly.
?We're trying to present this like we all have a job, some people have many jobs, they're all important and you have to fulfill your responsibilities,? she said of the message for Dr. Howard students.
Lane-Rose worked hard to get where she is today. She started in the district as a teachers' aide in 1992, spent weekends and summers on reserve duty and studied at Illinois State University, earning a teaching certificate and a master's degree in special education. She has taught at Dr. Howard for two years.
She said she joined the Army as an ROTC member when she studied at the University of Illinois ?to get out of Chicago.?
Now Lane-Rose feels like she's in limbo, hoping her departure will be delayed so she can get her students through standardized tests before she leaves, but also eager to end the uncertainty.
?I spend time with my family and relax,? Lane-Rose said. ?My oldest son follows the war, and he sometimes asks if I'm going to fight. I'm trying to get the house in order and the paperwork.?
She tries not to worry about the possibility that she could be assigned to potentially hazardous chemical details.
?My religious background helps,? Lane-Rose said. ?I feel like we're blessed to breathe every day.?
In the meantime, she's training for action, running up stairs wearing weights and watching her diet.
Sullivan's situation isn't quite as imminent. She said she hopes if she is called to active duty, it will be after the school year ends, but she also is making classroom preparations just in case.
?I would hope I'm delayed, but we have a tremendous staff here and I have wonderful teaching assistants,? Sullivan said. ?Vera Harvey and Elizabeth Kinney and I have been together two years, and they'd know my schedule and the children and they could help a substitute.?
If she's called to active duty , she'll get a phone call and she'll have about 72 hours to make preparations for departure.
On active duty, Sullivan's job will be very precise and it will be tied to the heat of the action.
?I'm a tactical intelligence specialist and we work closely with the Army,? she said. ?If the Army needs air support for the ground troops, it comes through our center. I would plot coordinates to make sure we're looking at enemy targets, and I coordinate with the Air Force to bring in the planes to take out the enemy.?
Sullivan's family includes Tyler, a fifth-grader, and Sean, a first-grader, both at Holy Cross School, and husband Chuck Sullivan, a Champaign firefighter. She said her parents, retired teachers and military personnel, will come to help out if she is shipped overseas.
?We have sat down and discussed this as a family, and I think the boys understand,? Sullivan said. ?They don't like Hussein because they know he might cause Mom to have to go. They're not happy about it, but they understand it's something Mommy might have to do.?
Like Lane-Rose, Sullivan's military experience dates back to ROTC at the UI. She spent several years on active duty, and she earned her teaching certification while she was serving in the National Guard.
Her husband served in the Gulf War.
Sullivan hasn't said much to her students, who range from kindergarteners to third-graders, about her possible departure. She thinks most are a little young to understand what's happening, although she has discussed her other job with a few older students.
?This is a commitment I've made,? Sullivan said. ?We might not always agree with our foreign policy, but when I joined the National Guard, I made a decision that I'll support our commander in chief, our president.?
She said her Guard weekends have always been turned into ?boys' weekend? at home, times full of treats and activities, so her sons have a positive view of the service.
?I think they're proud of me,? Sullivan said.
Brinkley said the teachers are guaranteed jobs in the district when they return, but depending on the length of the time they're gone, the jobs can't be guaranteed at the same schools.
She said two other staff members at Dr. Howard have family members in the service. She doesn't ask questions, but she waits anxiously for them to offer news about e-mails or phone conversations.
?The people going to war have special problems, but they're busy,? Brinkley said. ?It's the people at home who wait and worry.?
?Our president has said this war won't be long,? she said. ?I have to believe that for peace of mind. I have to believe they'll be back quickly.?
You can reach Anne Cook at (217) 351-5217 or via e-mail at acook@ news-gazette.com.