HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - A group of Oak Grove teachers needed a little encouragement Thursday night after Gov. Tate Reeves announced schools would be closed for the remainder of the semester earlier this week.
Teachers at Oak Grove schools have been using Zoom video conferences to meet with students and other teachers amid the COVID-19 school closures, but Thursday night’s Zoom was aimed at giving the teachers a chance to socialize and get their spirits up.
Ashlyn Williamson, a third grade math teacher at Oak Grove Lower Elementary School, organized the Zoom video call with about 18-20 of her fellow teachers. She said they were all disappointed that schools were closed and they were missing their kids and each other.
None of the teachers expected that a star would join them.
Earlier in the day, Williamson saw country music singer Brad Paisley post a phone number on social media, telling people to send their Zoom info and he just may join their video call. She figured it was a shot in the dark, but she gave it a chance.
The teachers had been socializing on the call for about 30 minutes when Paisley’s name appeared in the waiting room of the Zoom call. Williamson added him to the chat without letting anyone else know.
A video appeared with the name Brad Paisley under it, but the person in the video was wearing a Mandalorian helmet from “Star Wars." Williamson began to think she had been duped by a fake.
But then, the mysterious stranger took off the helmet. Sure enough, it was the three-time Grammy winner.
Williamson said there was a brief period of screaming and hollering at the surprise.
One teacher asked Paisley how they could be sure it was him and not a look-a-like, so Paisley sang a few lines from “I’m Gonna Miss Her” to prove it was him.
Paisley asked the teachers where their drinks were, and one teacher held up a baby’s milk bottle she was using to feed her child.
Paisley told the teachers that he appreciated them for their work and that his mother was a former teacher. He also had a message for the teachers to pass on to their seniors.
“You’re being robbed right now of something cool, but it’s also the thing that, I think, might make you make a difference,” Paisley said. “If you don’t like this, then go be somebody that can fix this kind of thing someday. Go make the world better than what it is right now. Go figure out what needs done and how we can avoid this kind of thing.”
“Channel this. Become what you want to be," Paisley added. "Maybe you want to be a nurse, maybe you want to be a doctor or maybe you just want to be somebody that’s making a difference. Go do it.”
After delivering much needed smiles and encouragement to the teachers, Paisley said he “was heading off to somewhere wilder than this.”
“Overall a very kind a thoughtful of him to take time to hop on when he wasn’t getting anything out of it besides knowing he made our day,” Williamson said. “I’ve always been a fan, but I haven’t seen him live. I will definitely be looking for a close by concert when all of this is over to support him.”