ADA, Mich. — A West Michigan high school teacher has taken distance learning to a new level. Darren Tanis began the month of January teaching math at Forest Hills Eastern like he's done for years.
"It was like so sudden, but I was really proud of him," says Karissa DenBraber, a senior at FHE and one of Tanis's students.
Then with almost no notice, Tanis got a call to leave his classroom behind and head to Washington D.C. with his unit of the National Guard.
"I wasn't anticipating it," says Tanis. "But in light of events they called us down."
His unit was deployed in response to the riot at the U.S. Capitol building.
"I thought it was really cool that he went to do that and be a part of history," says Nick Mesler, another of Tanis's students.
Initially, he thought they would just be guarding Joe Biden's Inauguration.
"We were proud to do it," says Tanis. "To make sure that there's a peaceful transition of power, to ensure that democracy keeps moving forward."
But that short assignment became a couple months, and he's not planning to be home until March. But he hasn't forgotten about his students.
"Darren made it so easy," says Amy Pallo, FHE's principal. "He had a plan from the beginning. He had figured out how to work with kids."
Even from D.C., Tanis has remained active with his classroom. While students do have a substitute teacher in the building, he has continued to stay in touch through virtual lessons.
"It's probably not easy last second having their teacher pulled out like this," says Tanis. "So if there's anything I can do to help to make sure they get what they need then that's what I'm trying to do."
FHE's staff is thankful for that help.
"We really respect what he's doing," says Pallo. "We appreciate that he's part of that world and ours because I think it's something our kids are going to be able to learn from."
And his students will always remember it.
"Leaving his family and his job that he really loves to go help our country is really inspiring," says DenBraber.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.