Teacher Is Brought To Tears After His Students ‘Crash’ His Wedding Day

While some people plop photos of their family and friends front and center on their work desks, others feel they simply can’t reveal the intricacies of their personal lives at work. For them, separating the work-life realm from the home-life realm can maintain a sense of balance — and protect from unwanted questions.

Middle school teacher Christopher Landis considered his students to be some of the most important people in his life, but he couldn’t fathom sharing certain aspects of his life with them. Still, he couldn’t keep the truth hidden forever. Word got out, and the kids crashed the biggest day of his life with a news-worthy scheme.

Massachusetts teacher and choir director Christopher Landis adores everything about his job. The students of Hingham Middle School looked up to Christopher, AKA Mr. Landis, and felt comfortable talking to him about pretty much anything. But Christopher was a closed book.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

“You always walk into his classroom and he’s always there with a positive attitude and maybe a compliment. He’s just so nice,” Christopher’s student Summer Foraste said according to the Daily Mail. Christopher was Hingham Middle School’s “cool” teacher.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

The then 43-year-old made it a priority to create a safe space in his classrooms, encouraging his students to be their truest selves. But when he reached his own huge milestone in 2016, Christopher couldn’t be his truest self.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

On Christmas Eve 2016, Christopher got engaged to the love of his life, Joe Michienzie. He was ecstatic, but it wasn’t something he could openly gush about to his students. What would they think about him marrying a man? What would their parents think?

Christopher Landis / Facebook

To avoid finding out the answer, and rather than risk feeling rejected or having students feel uncomfortable around him, Christopher decided to refer to his boyfriend-turned-fiancé as his “friend” while teaching.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

Christopher was tight-lipped about the wedding planning for these devastating reasons, despite the fact that he wanted to shout about it from the rooftops. But while Christopher thought his secret was secure, some super-sleuth soccer mommies found out about the wedding.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

“At the end of the summer, Margit and I heard he was getting married,” Joy Foraste, who’s mom to one of Christopher’s students, told The New York Times. The middle school mums were glum to find that Christopher felt the need to hide his sexuality.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

“He’s the best teacher, and he’s got this great energy, and he makes every school function fun. We thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to do something for his wedding?” Joy warmly continued. They wanted to prove to Christopher just how loved and accepted he was by his community, but how?

Christopher Landis / Facebook

Joy Foraste and Margit Foley were the brains behind the wedding surprise. Before they started seriously brainstorming, they reached out to Christopher’s fiancé, Joe, to ask for his blessing to be a part of their wedding festivities.

Joe Michienzie / Facebook

“But he was immediately on board. He said he had also been trying to figure out how to incorporate the students because they mean so much to Mr. Landis,” relayed Margit. The choir parents then banded together to arrange a melodic surprise.

Joe Michienzie / Facebook

The choir parents came up with an idea that would involve Christopher’s sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students giving a surprise choral performance at his wedding rehearsal brunch. After cementing the little recital idea with the rehearsal venue, the parents and students had their own rehearsing to do.

Hingham Anchor

“We hoped we’d get at least 15 kids to do it. But instead of the 20 we were hoping for, we had over 50 kids. It’s such a testament to Mr. Landis as a teacher and as a figure in their lives,” explained Joy.

Christopher Landis & Joe Michienzie / YouTube

With the help of private chorus teacher Dona Maher, who was “absolutely delighted and honored” to assist, the students practiced their choral performance at the James Library in Norwell every Sunday for four weeks. The dozens of students were dedicated to perfecting their voices, as well as keeping the plan a secret.

Vassar College Music Deaprtment

Christopher’s wedding rehearsal brunch finally arrived come December 2018. In the midst of the warm rehearsal at Tavern on the Wharf, the students began filing in the room, just as they diligently planned.

Joe Michienzie / Facebook

“I noticed everyone was holding video cameras and I was like ‘What’s going on?’” Christopher told Inside Edition. “I don’t think it hit me until all of these students came in and they were smiling and all dressed up. Then I started crying and they started crying,” he continued.

Hingham Public Schools

As all of their familiar faces flooded the room, the choir students began singing the Beatles’ hit song “All You Need Is Love.” Christopher, Joe, and all of their friends and family members watched and listened in awe as the students sang.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

A video of the performance was soon posted on the Hingham Public Schools’ Facebook page, and various media outlets caught on. “As a middle-school teacher, I see students struggling so much with trying to figure out who they are,” Christopher said.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

“Some of the students singing have inner struggles, and things I know about going on at home. I was so glad they were there, feeling the love in the room and knowing everything’s going to be O.K., that things do work out,” he continued, clearly speaking from personal experience.

Hingham Public Schools

“I felt like when the kids came to sing they were basically saying, “‘It’s okay. We know who Joe is.’ So now I say: ‘Joe, my husband,’” said Christopher. It was more than okay, and he finally knew that.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

It finally became apparent to Christopher that nothing about his identity could change how his students view him. He would always be the cherished Mr. Landis. And while the students’ parents were huge fans of Christopher as well, not every teacher is as lucky.

Christopher Landis / Facebook

Stacy Bailey was twice awarded with the title of Charlotte Anderson Elementary’s “Teacher of the Year.” Peers and parents loved her, and her students could only give glowing reviews. One parent was particularly affected by Stacy’s charm.

Stacy Bailey

Third-grader Heather was in Stacy’s art class for all of her three years at Charlotte Anderson. She thrived in the class, and Stacy was patient and nurturing towards the girl, who was an anxious kid with the occasional behavior problem. Heather’s mom took notice.

Stacy Bailey

“I learned more from my elementary school–aged daughter about art history than I ever did in college,” said Heather’s mom Carol. She was amazed by Stacy’s ability to teach a sophisticated, grown-up lesson, while still keeping elementary school kiddos interested.

Florence Salazar Bruner

She recalled a night out to dinner with the family, when then-first-grader Heather enthusiastically pointed to a replica painting of surrealist artist René Magritte’s “The Son of Man.” Carol had an eyebrow raised, quite shocked at the fact that her 6-year-old recognized the piece.

Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle

“She was able to tell us who the artist was, the meaning of different aspects of the painting, tell us about the painter and how he was close to his mother and had painted it during a period of mourning after her death,” Carol explained.

Kareah Wakeland

“My husband and I were stunned. We googled it. Everything she was telling us was right there in Wikipedia,” she continued. So that’s why Heather’s family was stunned when they heard the heartbreaking news that their favorite teacher had caused “a disruption” at the school.

Josh Street Design

According to the Mansfield Independent School District, it’s a “general rule not to comment on employee personnel matters.” Once rumors spread that Ms. Bailey revealed something personal (and what some would consider controversial) to her students, it “created disruption to the Charlotte Anderson Elementary School educational environment.”

The “disruption,” prompted the district to suspend Ms. Bailey in 2017, even though she’d worked at Charlotte Anderson since 2008. When details made it back to the families, they could hardly believe what happened.

What was Ms. Bailey’s heinous disruption? Well, when the sweet lavender-haired teacher presented an introductory slideshow to her students, a specific photo caught everyone’s attention.

Ron Baselice / Dallas Morning News

She showed the kids a photo of her and her “future wife,” Julie Vazquez, dressed as Nemo and Dory from 2003’s Finding Nemo. When word got around to parents about the photo, a huge controversy ensued.

Julie Vazquez

One parent complained to the district about Stacy, forcing them to respond. A press release from the school district stated that the district had received complaints about Stacy’s conduct, but another parent had something to say about that.

Stacey Bailey

Heather’s mom Carol argued that “not one time, in three years, was sexuality ever a detail that was presented.” Another student agreed that Stacy’s sexual orientation was never discussed. But Stacy wasn’t going to let the district punish her for being different.

Stacy Bailey

“When a straight teacher happily announces that she and her husband are expecting a baby to her elementary class, is she saying something inappropriate to very young and impressionable students?” Stacy asked.

USD 265-Goddard Public Schools

“Is she announcing her sexual orientation? Is she presenting her life in a way that promotes her political beliefs? Of course not. She’s simply sharing facts about her life,” she continued, arguing that there was discrimination at hand.

CBSDFW

Understandably, Stacy took legal action, suing the Mansfield Independent School District for discrimination based on her sexual orientation. But did she have a strong enough case to actually take down the elementary school?

Amazingly, she won! In February of 2020, MISD awarded Bailey $100,000 settlement money after a federal judge declared the suspension unconstitutional. For Stacy, the money was nice — but a bigger aspect of the suit mattered more.

Jason Smith

The settlement also stated that MISD would remove Stacy’s suspension from her permanent record, provide mandatory training to its HR and counseling staff on LGBTQ+ issues in schools, hand have its board of trustees vote on whether to include “sexual discrimination” as a category in its anti-discrimination policies.

Jenny Brundin / CPR News

A win for all under their belts, Stacy and her now-wife donated $10,000 of her settlement money to a charity dedicated to helping queer students in schools. She was then reassigned to teach at a local high school, where she met an overwhelming amount of love and acceptance.

Stacy Bailey

“If you are a school district that thinks you can bully a gay teacher out of their job, I hope you remember my name and I hope you think twice,” she said at a press conference. It’s 2020, and Stacy is done letting anyone treat her like she’s less-than because of her identity.

Others, like thirty-two-year-old Jocelyn Morffi, found comfort in Stacy’s story. She was a first-grade teacher who adored her job, as well as her students. And said students, not to mention their parents, loved her back. As with Stacy, everything was seemingly perfect.

Miami, Florida, resident Jocelyn was well known by the parents and staff and was one of the most popular teachers at the school. Parents of her students praised her and referred to Miss Morffi as the “Mother Teresa of teachers, and for a good reason!

Miami Arch

As a teacher of children who are so young and impressionable, Jocelyn found it difficult to talk to her students about the tragedies that occur around the world on a daily basis. She wanted her conversations with them to be filled with hope rather than fear.

St. Peter and Paul Catholic School

Together with her class, she started brainstorming ideas on how to give back to the community and instill hope in her students. They came up with the idea to volunteer at their local homeless shelter.

Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook

Jocelyn recalled, “When I came back from that first feeding, I asked the school if it’s possible for them to back me up, and I got authorization to send out a letter to the parents stating what’s going on and if they would like to contribute in any way.”

Additionally, Jocelyn used her platform on social media to start a program to encourage her students, their parents, and the community to join her in her new initiative. She used the hashtag #TeachHope to spread the word.

Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook

With her social media campaign and the support of her students, Jocelyn was ready to start her campaign and could only hope that the community followed in her footsteps.

Jocelyn Morffi / Facebook

Jocelyn was overwhelmed with support when her students and their parents showed up to volunteer at the homeless shelter with her. Parents also brought generous donations like loves of bread, meats, cheeses, and snacks to bag up and hand out.

Teachhope70x7

Miss Morffi’s students were passionate about her new program. A class parent and co-worker stated, “They wake me up bright and early on Sunday saying, ‘Mom, we have to teach hope.'” She was an integral part of the school, community, and their lives.

Teachhope70x7

Having their kids spend every day with the “Mother Theresa of teachers” is every parent’s dream. That’s why the parents were immediately concerned when Jocelyn stopped showing up to school — and very confused.

Twitter

See, Jocelyn was scheduled to have some time off from work because she was celebrating something very special. She was about to marry the love of her life and best friend. She just assumed when it was all over, her life would return to normal.

Prior to the big day, Jocelyn set up a wedding website to show all of the important information regarding her wedding and to inform her guests of the festivities. She set up a wedding hashtag so her loved ones could follow the event online.

The couple planned a weekend-long celebration at the Key Largo Lighthouse estate. On Friday they held a welcome bash, followed by a seaside wedding ceremony on Saturday, with a goodbye barbecue on Sunday… but things didn’t go as planned in the days following.

When parents brought their children to St. Peter and Paul Catholic School following the wedding, they were shocked to see that their beloved teacher had not returned. When the parents learned why Miss Morffi was no longer there, they were outraged.

Since Jocelyn was such a known presence in the community and on social media, the school saw pictures of her wedding ceremony. According to the school, what they saw in those photos left them with no choice but to fire her.

Her Instagram displayed photos of Jocelyn and her wife joining in holy matrimony. Because same-sex marriage is not accepted in the Roman Catholic church, the school relieved Jocelyn of her duties as a teacher at the school.

NY Daily News

Jocelyn took to her social media and wrote this: “This weekend I married the love of my life and unfortunately I was terminated from my job as a result. In their eyes, I’m not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner.”

NBC4I

The parents who didn’t follow Miss Morffi on Instagram found out from a letter through the school, which stated that “She is no longer teaching at our school,” and it was “a difficult and necessary decision.”

The following day, dozens of angry parents showed up at the school. One parent told the news, “We feel cheated. She was the best kind of teacher that you can ask for and our kids, everybody, every parent here — our kids loved her.”

Parents threatened to pull their children from the school if she wasn’t reinstated. Unfortunately, Catholic schools, like many other schools, are not subject to the states public school laws. So, in the eyes of the Catholic school board, Miss Morffi was in violation of her contract when she married the woman she loved.

As of 2018, Jocelyn was seeking legal advice to figure out her options. Her attorney stated, “Jocelyn is humbled by all the love and support she has received from family, friends, the students’ parents, and the public. She feels that the manner of her firing was unfair, not only to her but to her students as well.”

NBC4I

Unforunately, it’s stories like Jocelyn’s that cause many people to still feel the need to keep their sexuality hidden — Christopher Landis was no exception. The 43-year-old has been a teacher and a choir director in Massachusetts for the past six years.

“You always walk into his classroom and he’s always there with a positive attitude and maybe a compliment. He’s just so nice,” Summer Foraste, one of Landis’ students, said.

What matters most to Mr. Landis is creating a safe environment where open dialogue is encouraged. His students can talk to him about anything, and they often take him up for it by letting him know what’s going on in their lives.

Since Mr. Landis knows so much about his pupils, he wanted to share some personal news with them too, but something left him feeling hesitant. Despite their love for him, he wasn’t sure how they would take the news.

See, on Christmas Eve of 2016, Christopher got engaged to the love of his life, and was going to be married two years later, at the end of 2018. The couple was excited but also worried about how people would react.

What nobody knew was that Christopher’s significant other was a man named Joe Michienzie. In the past whenever his students or their parents would see them out together he referred to Joe as his “friend”.

The school where Mr. Landis works, Hingham Middle School, is located near the coast of Massachusetts. While MA is a fairly liberal state, there are still groups of people who do not feel safe or accepted for who they are.

Mr. Landis wasn’t sure how his beloved students would feel about him being gay. He feared that they might not approve of his lifestyle and relationship, or worse, that they wouldn’t be comfortable around him anymore.

Despite the couple’s best efforts to keep their engagement on the hush-hush, parents found out about their upcoming nuptials. Without Mr. Landis’ knowledge, they devised a top-secret plan…

“At the end of the summer, I heard he was getting married. He’s the best teacher and he makes every school function fun. We thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to do something for his wedding?” Joy Foraste, whose daughter is one of Landis’ students, said.

Foraste and fellow parent Margit Foley started brainstorming ideas for a surprise in September of 2018. But before starting any real plans, they decided to reach out to make sure it was something Mr. Landis would like.

“We reached out to his fiancé because I wasn’t really sure how he’d feel,” Foley explained. “He was immediately on board. He said he had also been trying to figure out how to incorporate the students because they mean so much to Mr. Landis.”

A group of parents got together and made sure that all his pupils, from sixth to eighth graders, would attend the couple’s wedding with a surprise that would show their full support of their favorite teacher.

“We hoped we’d get at least 15 kids to do it,” said Foraste after emailing the parents of about 60 choir kids. “But instead we had over 50 kids. It’s such a testament to Mr. Landis as a teacher and as a figure in their lives.”

While Foley and Foraste visited the reception venue to clear their plans with the proprietors, the students worked hard on their surprise with the help of Dona Maher, a private chorus teacher who knew Mr. Landis too.

“I was absolutely delighted and honored when they had asked for my help — it was an instantaneous yes from me,” Maher told Wicked Local. “This was a genuinely thoughtful and loving gesture for their teacher.”

With Maher on board, the students showed up every Sunday for four weeks to practice their performance. This meant the kids gave up four weekend days to do something nice for their teacher.

It was the day of the wedding rehearsal, and as soon as the children appeared at the ceremony, the two grooms were overcome with emotion. The kids walked in gracefully, lined up with a smile, and began singing an all too familiar Beatles’ tune…

“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done, nothing you can sing that can’t be sung, nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game. It’s easy — all you need is love.”

When Mr. Landis realized what was happening, he instantly started to cry. “I noticed everyone was holding video cameras and I was wondering, like, ‘What’s going on?'” Landis told Inside Edition.

“Then I saw the first student come in and I was like ‘Oh my goodness,’ but I don’t think it hit me until all of these students came in, and they were smiling and all dressed up. I started crying and they started crying.”

The whole performance was filmed and posted online, where it soon went viral. “I still get choked up watching it,” a newly-wedded Joe told The New York Times.

“I always referred to him as my friend because I wasn’t sure how the kids or parents would take it,” Landis said. “When they came to sing I felt like they were basically saying: ‘It’s okay. We know who Joe is.’ So now I say: ‘Joe, my husband.'”

At the end of the video, one of the students’ mom’s comes up to Landis to explain the whole situation and inform him about how much they practiced. He was truly blown away by their dedication.

“As a middle-school teacher, I see students struggle to figure out who they are and to deal with personal issues. I was so glad they were there, feeling the love in the room and knowing everything’s going to be okay… that things do work out.”

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