Ephrata Teacher On A Shaving Strike To Teach Students A Lesson

Ephrata Teacher On A Shaving Strike To Teach Students A Lesson »Play Video
EPHRATA - An Eastern Washington schoolteacher is on a shaving strike. And his school district says that's just fine.

It's because he's teaching students a lesson.

The scenes of Sept. 11 are ones millions couldn't ignore.

"When the twin towers came down, I was horrified and I was glued to that television set for several days," says Gary Weddle. "And (I) realized that not only was I not taking showers I wasn't shaving."

Weddle was a substitute teacher. He didn't work that month. He just watched.

Last September, he got a permanent job at Ephrata Middle School teaching life science.

Just inside his classroom: you can't miss it. An American flag, a 9-11 poster, and that 10-inch long beard.

"It was kinda of weird," said student Alicia Johnson. "You walk in and he's got this huge long beard. He kinda looks a little scary. You don't know what he's going to be like."

To remember Sept. 11, Gary swore he wouldn't cut or trim his beard until Osama bin Laden is captured or killed.

"Everyday, I'm reminded that there are terrible tragedies in the world. This wasn't the first and it won't be the last," Weddle said.

The kids often ask Weddle to do "the beard trick" -- The Cousin It look from the Addams Family. He does, but reminds kids this isn't about humor, it's about murder and terror.

"I like the guy, I hate the beard," said Gary's wife Donita. She's dreamed of cutting off the beard while he sleeps. She won't do it.

"He made a vow," she said. "He can't very well break that vow now. He'd disappoint a lot of people. He wouldn't be a hero to the kids anymore. He's a man of his word."

Donita hopes Osama bin Laden is captured soon. But as long as bin Laden remains free, the beard stays.

"If they want to shave it off my body in the coffin, they can, but I'm going to hang on to it," he said. "I'm not going to forget, and I'm not going to let anyone forget."

Weddle says that's his hope: That his students, and America, remember 9-11 not once a year, but every day.

He says he remembers when the Taliban fell, many Afghan men shaved their beards as a sign they were free. He says he will do the same when Bin Laden is captured -- and send his beard to Osama as a symbol all men are free.