For 15 years, James Anthony, who is deaf, has cleaned the halls of Hickerson Elementary School in Tullahoma, Tenn. But on Tuesday, a group of kindergartners gave back by surprising their beloved “Mr. James” with a surprise chorus for his 60th birthday — through sign language. The adorable video was shared on the Hickerson Elementary Facebook page, where it was seen more than 100,000 times by Thursday morning. “Our Kindergarten classes learned how to sign Happy Birthday for Mr. James’ birthday today. He was so surprised!” the school wrote.
The video shows Anthony walking into a classroom as a group of kids begin singing (and signing). He starts off smiling, then his jaw drops open and he puts his hands to his hand and laughs for joy as he realizes what’s going on. A few adults lead the kids through the whole song as Anthony watches, a wide smile on his face. As they finish, wipes tears from his eyes. “He was overwhelmed with it. It just was a spur of the moment thing and they just did it. He had his hands over his face, at the end he was tearing up. It just touched him,” Hickerson Elementary secretary Bonnie Scott said in a phone interview with McClatchy.
The kids at Hickerson Elementary love and respect Mr. James, Scott said. They give him high fives in the halls, and he even teaches them sign language sometimes. “We’ve seen him sign a couple of times with the little ones who don’t communicate well, and they’re learning sign language with him,” Scott said. As Anthony’s birthday approached, teachers Amy Hershman and Allyssa Hartsfield decided they were going to organize the surprise, NewsChannel5 reported.
“James is awesome and is always saying how much I put a smile on his face, but today he has definitely put smiles on faces all around the world,” Hartsfield said, according to the station. Hickerson Principal Jimmy Anderson said Anthony teaches the kids “good manners and how to treat other people,” according to Fox 17. He’s worked in the county for more than 20 years, The Tennessean reported. People on social media were moved by the video and wished Mr. James a happy birthday as well.