The covert operation began with a Facebook page called “Mr. T’s final curtain call.”
In just a few weeks, the group had accumulated 335 members willing to participate in the farewell stunt.
The target? Belmont Elementary School’s music teacher, Jamie Thomas.
Thomas had been an educator for 38 years, spending 29 of them in the Langley School District.
Admired by his students for the elaborate musical productions during his time at Belmont, this month’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat would be the last of Thomas’s career.
Parkinson’s disease has forced the 60-year-old teacher to leave his job at the end of the school year, casting him into a full time neurological fight that has already taken away his ability to play music.
“I know my body’s going to slowly deteriorate,” said Thomas, “but I’m going to fight it as long as I can.”
There would be no way co-worker and fellow teacher Rachelle Beaulieu was going to let Thomas leave without a proper sendoff. Beaulieu was the mastermind behind the Facebook group and what “Mr. T’s final curtain call” grew into.
“A couple months ago, I started a Facebook group saying they wanted to do this,” Beaulieu explained.” I just put the small the little group out there and let social media do its thing.”
Over 200 students from Thomas’s 14 musical productions showed up at the Belmont playground during the final performance last Saturday – ready to send off their theatre teacher in the most dramatic fashion possible.
“The reception started at school yard,” Beaulieu recounted. “After the play wrapped and Jamie [Thomas] came up on stage to give his thank-you’s, we cut the mic and the actor playing Joseph yelled “guards, seize him!” Then the cast sat him down on a throne which was part of the set.”
Music from last year’s production, Oliver Twist, started to blare over the speakers. In came the former cast, singing the show’s signature song “Consider Yourself” as they took over the stage.
The 2017 cast of Seussical stormed in next, signifying this would be nothing short of a massive parade.
From Pete’s Dragon to Mary Poppins, familiar faces wanting to wish their teacher well, filled the gym to put on a completely new production just for Thomas.
“Students came in carrying signs to say what production they were from – some even had costumes,” said Beaulieu. “There were reps from all 14 musicals Jamie [Thomas] had been a part of over the years.”
By the time everyone packed inside, the stage was overflowing with dancing students going as far back as Thomas’s first production, Trial of the Big Bad Wolf in 1991.
Together in a chorus, the group of former thespians sang an original song with lyrics thanking Thomas for the memories and all he had done for them during his career.
“It just seems surreal,” said Thomas. “I feel like I’m a hardworking teacher, but I’m not extraordinary. I’m at a loss for words about it. I’m completely humbled and confused on why I was deserving of this.”
On whether or not Thomas had any idea, Beaulieu said “he is such a humble person. I think he suspected something but nothing of this magnitude.”
Thomas and his wife, Wendy, moved to Chilliwack several months ago, where he hopes to do substitute teaching there or possibly even in the Langley district in the future.
Is there more to this story?