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Teacher displays act of selfless dedication

POSTED: Monday, September 26, 2011 - 2:00pm

UPDATED: Monday, September 26, 2011 - 4:18pm

All this week, NBC News is hosting an Education Nation summit in New York.

Parents, teachers and students will meet with leaders in politics, business and technology to talk about education today and in the future.

One teacher could be excused for canceling his trip, but he didn't.

Doug Clark lost his home in the wildfires that tore through Bastrop, Texas several weeks ago.

That loss has given him a message to take with him to New York.

As the Bastrop inferno grew Doug, a special ed teacher at Mina Elementary School, was just returning home from Dallas.

Entry to his neighborhood was restricted.

"We didn't know if our house was gone, we didn't know if the fire was going to come in to the actual town of Bastrop, but the firefighters and first responders did an incredible job," he says.

Sheltered at a hotel, he was allowed home a week later.

"We were able to go in and take a look and sure enough it is down to the ground. I really don't have words for that. Your whole family's life, all the mementoes, all the little stuff gone," he says.

Doug was one of 200 Bastrop teachers made homeless by the fire.

When the schools finally reopened all of them returned to work.

They held in their personal grief and concentrated on the kids.

"The kids have really been hurt by this, and their families. The kids don't know what to do with it, we're struggling to make sense of it all ourselves," Doug says. "We've got a lot of work to do and it's going to take a long time."

Doug saw the pain on the children's faces.

"Some of the saddest ones have been those that have lost animals. Dogs and cats and so forth. For the little kids, and I'm in an elementary school, that really hits home," he explains.

Doug Clark is proud of the role teachers played in returning Bastrop to some sense of normalcy.

He carries that message with him to New York.

"Teachers are the iconic profession and we need to enhance and improve their position as professionals, and this is just a fantastic example of how teachers can step up, in spite of their own issues at the time, and meet the needs of the community," he says. "They have a real passion and drive to serve and to help. And we do, we just stick with it."

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