Lakeland third graders help their teacher become a US citizen

Amanda Russell was born in the Bahamas

LAKELAND, Fla. - A third-grade teacher became a US citizen Friday, and she didn't go through the process alone.

Her class at North Lakeland Elementary School helped her every step of the way.

"They've just been a part of this journey with me, and they're so excited. I just think it's a great civics lesson for them," said Amanda Russell, who was born in the Bahamas.

Russell moved to America in 1996 to attend Florida Southern College.  She eventually got a teaching job at North Lakeland Elementary and never turned back.

"I've had my green card for six or seven years and just decided it was time," she said. "I'm really excited about becoming an American citizen and being able to vote and really being apart of the entire process."

When she decided it was time, she brought her students along for the ride for them to learn and even help her.

"I didn't expect for you to have a big test," Melanie Brooks remembered telling her teacher. "I thought we usually have the big tests around her."

Once they understood, the kids got into it and even quizzed her on some of the questions ahead of the big citizenship test.

"It's kind of cool to do something like that for a teacher, because she used to do stuff for us, and now we finally get to do something for her that she appreciates," said Christopher Moore, one of Russell's students.

"They just love the idea of their teacher having to take a test," Russell said.

For once the teacher became the student and the students became the teacher.

Russell took the test last month, and aced it.

Friday was the final step of the process -- the oath, in a special ceremony in front of her class and entire school.

The kids were appropriately dressed in red, white, and blue.

When Officers from US Citizenship and Immigration Services learned Russell was involving her students in the process, they offered to make the trip to Lakeland so the kids could see it first hand.

Principal Greg Deal welcomed the offer.

"I mean what better way to teach civics and citizenship and US government, than have a teacher go through the process that we talk about," he said.

As soon as Russell completed the oath, the school erupted in applause while waiving an American flag.

Her third grade class had a front row seat.

"Seeing how big of a deal it is for me, instills a little civic pride for them as well," Russell said.

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