An Alabama high school teacher is spending this holiday season with a new puppy thanks to the generosity of his students.
Troy Rogers, a history teacher at Clements High School in Athens, was surprised at school last month with an 8-week-old golden retriever puppy.
The school's senior class, around 90 students, raised nearly $700 through donations from themselves and Rogers' fellow teachers to buy the puppy. The students started the fundraiser after learning that Rogers' beloved golden retriever, Chip, had disappeared from his family's home.
"Coach Rogers doesn’t have children so his dog was like his child," said Haleigh Moss, one of the students who organized the donations. "He treats us like we’re his own children and he does so much for us. We just wanted to do something great for him in return."
Rogers said his students would ask him if Chip had been found, but he never realized they would go so far as to buy him a new dog.
"They would ask if we had found Chip and I’d say, ‘No we haven’t yet. Thank you for asking,’ and we’d start our teaching day," Rogers told ABC News. "They did everything from offer to search for him to offer up prayers. They’d want a quick update and we’d get into our instruction."
Rogers said he and his wife made plans to adopt a new dog next summer when it became clear Chip, who had recently gone blind, was not likely to return.
Those plans changed when a fellow teacher asked Rogers to come to her classroom. When he walked into the room, his wife was there crying and the classroom was full of students, who presented him with the new puppy.
"When he first walked in the room he was just shocked from the students," recalled student Miranda Ezell. "Then he saw her, and you could tell he teared up and his face turned red. You could see the excitement in his eyes."
Rogers described himself as "completely taken by surprise."
"I was just overwhelmed," he said. "It was a mix of feeling bad they’d done all this for me and wanting to pay them back and also completely surprised in a good way."
Rogers and his wife told the students they should be the ones to name the puppy. They decided to name her Clementine, after the school mascot.
Rogers, a 20-year teaching veteran, said he plans to make a donation to the senior class fund equal to what they spent on Clementine to repay the students for their generosity He has also created a private Facebook page for Clementine, called "Clementine's Adoration Society," so the students can watch her develop and grow.
"I think a lot of people don’t give teenagers the credit they deserve for the good hearts and kindness they have," Rogers said. "I’m never surprised by how good they are."