Inspiring students at Ravensworth Elementary School meant a teacher departing with a mustache he started growing in 1969. After collecting 17,250 General Mills cereal box tops worth $1,727, the students were holding him to his promise to shave the beard and the 34-year-old mustache.
"I couldn't believe they collected 2,000 box tops in the last two weeks," said Robert Sinex, a fourth and sixth grade teacher at Ravensworth.
Michelle Bergen, a mother of a second grader, was the unofficial ringleader of the project. Ravensworth has been collecting the General Mills cereal box tops through the years and cashing them in for money. With the latest batch, the school has raised a total of $6,489.70 in the last six years. The funds go in the PTA treasury, where it is then spent on extras for the school.
"He did that just to motivate the kids," Bergen said. "Last year, we collected 11,000 box tops."
This year's box top money will cover a program coming to the school called "Ocean in Motion," which is a mobile aquarium from the Virginia Marine Science Museum. In years past, one of the collections went to pay for a new bingo game for the Leewood Retirement Center on Braddock Road.
In addition, "the grade level that collected the most, they get ice cream," Bergen said. The second grade was the winner of the ice cream this year.
School administrator Judy Slakowicz has seen the contributions through the 13 years that she's been at Ravensworth.
"It's an easy way for parents to do something for the school," she said.
SINEX INITIALLY said he would shave the beard only when the students collected 15,000 box tops. At the last minute, he threw in the additional incentive that if they collected 2,000 more in two weeks, the mustache would go too.
On April 1, at 8:35 a.m., the morning television show "WRAV" started like usual and the stage was set for the shaving fiasco, but Sinex was no where to be seen. Students and teachers scanned the halls and one teacher grabbed the microphone and pleaded for Sinex to show his face. He emerged from a utility closet, face wrapped in cloth, and stepped up with electric razor in hand. The cameras captured every stroke.
Sinex divulged the age of the 34-year mustache after the shave. He then went upstairs, where the hall was packed with students, who gave him high fives as he walked down the hall. The students only knew him in a beard and mustache so they had a hard time getting used to it. Alec Henneberger thought about television stars.
"He looks kind of like an actor I've seen before on TV," Alec said.
Sinex did have a souvenir from the experience.
"He has whiskers in a bag to show his wife," Bergen said.