Got a handkerchief? Middle school students unveil ‘epic surprise’ for teachers

Eighth-grade orchestra students at Truett Wilson Middle School in Haslet executed a sneaky plan in the weeks leading up to their last concert of the school year.

They met behind the backs of orchestra directors Michelle Bell and Shannon Stevenson. Sometimes, they hid in storerooms until the teachers left campus so they could move through the school without being detected or heard by Bell and Stevenson.

The students’ scheme was for good. They were aided by parents and teachers in creating a sweet moment in music for their teachers — a parting gift as they leave middle school.

When the orchestra finished its last performance of the year on May 2, students unveiled their surprise in the school gym. Twin sisters Caitlyn and Claire Summers, along with Rachel Washington and Nayounghee Tuetkin, organized the performance. They announced the surprise, took their places and began to play the popular Disney song, “Remember Me.”

The song is part of the Disney movie, “Coco,” and the students performed without a conductor.

Bell and Stevenson watched with happy tears. Parents started to cry too.

Bell said the performance was an “epic surprise.”

“This is really touching,” Bell said, adding: “Shannon and I were totally crying. I won’t forget that moment as teacher.”

Christine Summers said her daughters reached out to their classmates who agreed to play in the surprise performance.

For two months, the orchestra worked on their surprise. They practiced each week in the band hall, the portables, and the orchestra room. Students pooled their money so they could pay $50 for the sheet music.

“The entire school pretty much knew their secret and helped them keep it,” Christine Summers said. “The principal knew, the band directors, the janitor.”

Bell said she had no idea.

The academic year ends on May 31 for Truett Wilson Middle School, which is part of the Northwest school district.

The end of the school year can be emotional for eighth-grade students as they prepare to leave one campus and move to high school, Bell said. Parting gifts from eighth-grade students has become part of the school family culture, Bell said.

Bell said students often give them parting gifts such as flowers, signed photographs and cards.

“Usually we can sniff it out, ‘Oh, they are getting a picture,’” Bell said, recalling how they have figured out surprises from students in the past.

Bell said the performance was the culmination of everything a teacher hopes to give students, including the motivation to organize something on their own, practice and a love of music.

“They have been in our room for three years,” Bell said, adding that as educators they pour everything into educating their more than 150 orchestra students.

“A lot of them get really emotional about it,” Bell said. “We are like second moms to a lot of these kids.”

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