NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It usually takes a unique circumstance to call off class in high school, but last Wednesday it wasn’t the weather, it wasn’t a fire drill.
At Christ Presbyterian Academy, students left the building—hundreds of them—for a beloved teacher, a teacher who won’t be coming back.
You may have seen the video of what happened next. It has over 21 million views after it was posted by Tim McGraw.
Ben Ellis’ influence goes far beyond as the classroom as he fights esophageal cancer.
As he peered out of his window last week, he was truly overcome by the presence of his students—more than 400 of them.
“Wow. It was amazing. In that moment, it felt like I was not alone. We’re all together and not just that group, but everybody I’ve known,” he told News 2.
Ellis was diagnosed last December, and since then, the love for him, his wife, and their five children pours in daily.
His wife Shelley showed News 2 the piles of cards and letters he has received.
“They are from elementary students through students that he taught 10 and 15 years ago,” she said.
But those students wanted to do more; they wanted to see him and sing to him.
“As Ben’s been fighting, the one thing he has found a lot of comfort in is hymn sings,” said CPA’s headmaster Nate Morrow.
The impromptu chorus came together the night before.
“Tuesday evening the Ellis family got hard news. Just in looking at Ben’s progression, the cancer, you know, we were looking for a way to just love him back,” Morrow told News 2.
“The high school principal got on the announcements and said, ‘Stop what you’re doing. Let’s load up the buses. We’re going to go sing with Ben,’” he explained.
The moment has touched the hearts of millions of people across the world after the video reached millions.
“It was wonderful and was more than we could have imagined or thought of,” said Ellis’ wife Shelley.
For Ellis, who is accustomed to live in the classroom with young people, it was profound.
“You know none of us were built to think outside ourselves at that age, and it overwhelmed me that God would fill that many students with that much love not just for me but for one another that we have this community that was built on loving one another instead of worried about self. It was a miracle,” he told News 2.
And now this teacher, who has suffered so much, has his most important lesson left to share.
“Thin voice but big microphone, you know? Take the opportunity not only to love others but to receive love from other people, which is often so much more difficult, and trust God that letting others love you, and know you, can make a huge difference” Ellis said.
He taught the Bible and Latin at CPA since 2008.
Christ Presbyterian Academy statement on Ellis
“Ben Ellis is a beloved teacher, mentor, and parent in the community of Christ Presbyterian Academy. He has spent a career impacting students through his teaching, ministry, and service in both Nashville and abroad. Throughout Ben’s battle with cancer, he has continually found peace through worship and praise.
The decision to go to his house and sing was not planned. Ben and his family had received some hard news the night before and our students and faculty wanted to express their love for someone who has significantly changed their lives. Our high school principal stopped class, loaded the buses, and went. It was beautiful.
Our hearts and prayers are with Ben and his family as they fight this disease.”