ABC7 Pay It Forward: Beloved South Los Angeles teacher honored for musical passion

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A beloved teacher at West Athens Elementary School in South Los Angeles, who has been teaching kids music on his own time for years out of a cramped space with old, sometimes broken instruments, was given a brand new music room as part of our 'Pay It Forward' series.

Students performed at West Athens Elementary School in South Los Angeles under the direction of Aaron Stanley Thursday, but they had no idea Principal Ruth Castillo was about to surprise them.

"It's an opportunity to tell the teacher thank you for all they do for the kids," Castillo said, in tears. "You don't have that opportunity that much."

Stanley teaches music after school, on his own time. His so-called music room is basically a storage closet and many of the instruments inside are broken.

"My dream is to have a space for him where he can do this and continue planting that seed of music to the students," Castillo said.

She reached out to the Southern California Honda Dealers. For years, they've surprised extraordinary teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

This year, crews worked all weekend to build a new music room for Stanley. The new music room includes new paint, a new design and set after set of brand new instruments.

Eyewitness News and Castillo, with the help of SoCal Honda Dealers, interrupted one of Stanley's concerts for the big reveal.

"I appreciate you and all that you do for the kids here at the school," Castillo told Stanley, before SoCal Honda Dealers announced the surprise.

"The SoCal Honda Dealers would like to help you with a very special helpful surprise. Could you come with us?" said Honda's Tami Horetski.

Stanley was speechless after seeing his new music room.

"Oh my God! Wow! Oh wow! Unbelievable!" Stanley said. "You've got to pinch me, cause I don't know if I've woken up yet."

Stanley says he'll now be able to open up his class to twice as many students.

"We just learned what Paying It Forward means. So, the way we're going to Pay It Forward is whatever you learn you're going to make sure you teach somebody else," Stanley told his students.

The kids, who were just as delighted as Stanley was, played "Ode to Joy" to celebrate.

"Mr. Stanley is a great teacher and he deserves it," student Isabel Menendez said.
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educationpay it forwardteachermusicsocietyschoolSouth Los AngelesLos Angeles
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