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Good InfoRetired Teacher ‘Jumps for Joy’ at 80th Birthday in Surprise Reunion With...

Retired Teacher ‘Jumps for Joy’ at 80th Birthday in Surprise Reunion With Her Favorite Kindergarten Student


Karen Solomon hugs Seyi Fayanju – courtesy of Debra Solomon

Debra Solomon could think of no other gift that would delight her mother more than to reunite her with her favorite kindergarten pupil, decades later.

Retired from 27 years of teaching, Karen Solomon was set to celebrate her 80th birthday in April—and her daughter had a great idea, although it was a long shot for success.

“I could think of only one present for my mom, a reunion with her favorite kindergarten student from the 1980s, when she taught at Laning Ave School in Verona, New Jersey.”

She Googled Seyi Fayanju and was able to reach out to him though his faculty page at Stanford University where he now works as a doctor. Luckily, the reunion was set to take place in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Seyi has some close friends and family in nearby Chicago, so, despite his busy schedule as a doctor in Palo Alto, California, he was hopeful he might be able to make it.

“As luck would have it, the stars aligned and I was flying back from a conference on the East Coast that week, so a Wisconsin stop was added to the schedule!” he told GNN.

“He gave my mom the thrill of a lifetime,” said Debra in an email to GNN.

When the moment was ready, her granddaughter Mira guided Seyi to come through the doorway and stand right behind Mrs. Solomon.

Her daughter asked her about old students from classrooms past—and then Seyi popped out from behind.

“When he appeared, my mom jumped for joy,” said Debra. “Everyone in the room was crying—tears of happiness and love.

Seyi said, “Mrs. Solomon cried, I teared up, and everyone was happy.”

“Mrs. Solomon was a phenomenal teacher, mentor, and friend for my family. When we moved to Verona, New Jersey in the late 1980s, I started in kindergarten with her where she taught us all the usual things people learn at school—but she also modeled kindness and understanding for all the kids in her classes.

“We came from very different cultures. My parents are immigrants from Nigeria, and most of the people at my Newark school were African-American or Latino. I had never met someone who celebrated Hannukah, so I learned about her culture and so much more. I think that it helped me to be more interested in learning about other cultures, which sparked a lifelong love for history and geography.”

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He kept in touch with Mrs. Solomon over the years, even after his family moved and she retired. During his first week of college, he sent her an e-mail to say hello and thank her for her guidance. (She was also his third grade math teacher.)

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During the pandemic, his father asked ‘How is Mrs. Solomon?’ Afraid her email might bounce, he tried sending one anyway, and they connected for a video chat.

“She even wore a bracelet that my parents had given her back in the 1990s as a gift to say thanks.”

Mrs. Solomon enjoyed traveling, and Seyi says he “loved getting postcards from her every summer from cool places like San Diego and San Antonio… I still have them somewhere in my parents’ house.”

“It was great to meet her family and dozens of people who came to the party from her retirement community. I called my Dad in NJ and he said hello and congratulations by phone.

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“It was such a magical afternoon and I am so glad to have been part of this special occasion for her.

“I have been the lucky beneficiary of amazing teaching throughout my life, and feel sad that some of those amazing instructors passed on before I could tell them thank you.

“I think that if people are able, they should take the time to reach out to those teachers, mentors, and coaches that helped them to be better versions of themselves.”

Mrs. Solomon thanked her daughters saying she will never forget the incredible surprise reunion—especially when it turned out to be her favorite student.

SAY THANKS By Sharing The Story With Favorite Teachers on Social Media…



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