In this incredibly moving story from Dec. 2018, students from Hingham Middle School in Massachusetts proved that love knows no bounds — whether that’s romantic love or simply the love that students can have for a beloved teacher of theirs. Christopher Landis is one such teacher. He works at the Hingham Middle School in Massachusetts and is the school’s choir director, where he quickly became a beloved figure there.
At the school, a man named Joe Michienzie would come by frequently to see Landis. When his students asked who he was, Landis just said that he was “a friend.” What he didn’t tell them was that Michienzie was actually his partner and that the two were engaged. Landis lied because he wasn’t sure what his students (or their parents) would think of him being gay. But a special surprise performance at the couple’s wedding rehearsal told Landis everything he needed to know with regard to the topic.
During the occasion, Landis saw that his guests had their phones out. It looked like they were ready to record something. But what? The surprise was revealed when Landis’ choir students arrived. They were all dressed up and ready to perform for him. They sang “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles as the emotional teacher began crying, clearly both proud of them and incredibly moved by their gesture.
At that moment, he knew that his relationship was worthy of celebration, not judgment. He had nothing to fear. All of his students and their families supported Landis and his marriage to Michienzie. Not only that, but the teacher discovered that Michienzie had been in on the surprise all along. He had recruited all of Landis’ students. They spent months rehearsing to make sure the performance went perfectly. The video of the heartwarming moment first went viral after Hingham Middle School posted it on its Facebook page. They explained a little more about what happened:
“The Hingham Middle School Junior Choral Spectrum surprised their teacher, Mr. Christopher Landis, at his wedding rehearsal brunch just a few week ago. Our students practiced every Sunday for a month to get ready for the surprise. Thanks to HMS parents Joy Foraste and Margit Foley for organizing this touching moment.”
The school also shared a touching message for the newlyweds that said: “Congratulations to Christopher and Joe on their wedding! All of us here at HPS wish you nothing but happiness!!” The video resonated with people all over and has since been viewed over 1.2 million times. Landis spoke to HuffPost, and he described his reaction when he began to realize what was happening during the rehearsal brunch: “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 … Then I started crying and they started crying.”
Despite having worked at the school for six years, the choir teacher had kept his relationship private as he didn’t know how his students and their families would react. One of the organizers, Margit Foley, told The New York Times: “He’s the best teacher, and he’s got this great energy, and he makes every school function fun.” When she and Joy Foraste began to plan the performance, they hoped to gather around 15 students to participate, but they wound up with over 50, proving Landis’ popularity with his students. After the moving performance, Landis revealed he felt comfortable referring to Michienzie as his husband. He also told HuffPost that he hoped people who watched the video took away their own message of love and acceptance. He said:
“There might be a student in that choir that could be struggling at home (or) at school … To see the love that was in that room lets them know that everything’s going to be OK.” In an interview with The Anchor, Landis opened up about how when he was at school some of his teachers — including his chorus teacher — helped him. He said: “I was often bullied and teased in school, and I felt protected when I was around them. Their room was a place where I could be myself. They looked after me. I don’t know if it was the initial reason I became a teacher; however, I often look back and realize how safe they made me feel. I hope that I can do the same for students — allow them to safely be who they are.”
What the Hingham Middle School students did that day for Landis might have been a fairly simple gesture on the surface. But what they taught us all is that truly, all you need is love. It doesn’t matter what form it takes.