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Junior high school band teacher gets $500

ABC7 reporter Elex Michaleson is seen hugging band teacher Matt McKagan in this undated file photo.

May 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
After winning $500 in a March Madness pool, ABC7's Elex Michaelson was taken aback. He could only think about all the parking lots he stood in giving people the chance to give unsuspecting friends and organizations in need $500 through our Pay It Forward segments.

With that money in hand, he kept wondering if it was a sign that it was now his turn to pay it forward. He decided to return to his junior high school campus and surprise his former band teacher, Matt McKagan.

The Lindero Canyon Middle School band leader has won the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation Award for teaching and is also the winner of L.A. County's top honor for arts teaching.

Superintendent Don Zimring told the staff a camera crew was coming to film the performing arts center and the school's brand new classrooms that are being built. But he didn't tell them who the crew was.

A surprised McKagan immediately recognized Michaelson when he walked in with the news crew.

"I think there's no job more important, other than a parent, than a really great teacher," he said to McKagan. "You have impacted so many people's lives. Middle school is an awkward time for some people, it was an awkward time for me, but you give people a place to belong, you give them a sense of community, you teach them about music, about culture, and give them such a deeper appreciation for so many different things and you really have changed my life."

Michaelson handed McKagan the $500 and embraced his former teacher.

"I am completely shocked!" said McKagan. He says the money will pay for scholarships so several students can join the summer band.

Years after Michaelson sat in McKagan's band room, it is clear that his affect on his students is still the same.

"He kinda just gave us all courage to kind of fit in with other people," said tenor saxophone player Mason Muir.

McKagan was humbled and he could only feel that such an event was the cherry on top of a fulfilling career.

"I think the job I have here, for me, is the greatest job in the world, so when you come and honor me like this, it's sort of unbelievable because I love what I do anyways, I don't need to have this kind of recognition, but when I am recognized like this, it's like icing on the cake!" said McKagan.