A few months before Jennifer Geary's wedding, she and her parents were ironing out a few remaining details when she casually remarked that she wished her students could attend as guests.
"My class is like family to me, and all you want on your big day is to have your close friends and family there with you," Jennifer tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
With limited space at the wedding venue, she brushed aside the idea of squeezing in her class. Still, she wanted them to be a part of the special day in some way.
"I had my students write my husband and me advice on how to have a happy marriage," says Jennifer, who has been teaching for three years. "I displayed that at the wedding as...a way to have a piece of them there that day."
What she didn't know is that her parents paid attention to her offhand remark, and they put a plan into motion.
Jennifer's mom made arrangements with the vendors, and her coworkers secretly slipped invitations into her students’ backpacks on the last day of school.
As Jennifer said, "I do" to her fiancé, Jake Smith, her kindergarten students watched from afar on a balcony unbeknownst to the couple.
When Jennifer and Jake walked outside from the bridal suite, they were greeted by very excited students hosting a lemonade-and-cookie reception, a scene captured by photographer Andrea Marie Gasser.
"I still can't believe it!" Jennifer tells Yahoo. "I was completely shocked when I saw them standing there. And then I was overwhelmed with gratitude and lots of tears!"
Jennifer says her husband was blown away by the gesture as well. He is very involved in the classroom too, often helping to set up the classroom on weekends, buying students holiday gifts, and surprising Jennifer and the class with mini recliners.
This particular class is extra special for Jennifer as she is moving up from teaching kindergarten to first grade in the Fall, right along with her students.
They all came over and wrapped me in a big group hug," says Jennifer. “I remember hearing 'Ms. Geary, I missed you!' Then I had to break it to them that my name wasn't Ms. Geary anymore."
One part of the celebration she won't soon forget is a card from one of her students; it read "Dear. Ms. Geary, Congratulations! I am so proud of you!"
"I tell them all year how proud of them I am, but to hear those words back — and from a 6-year-old — definitely brought on more tears," says Jennifer.
“I wanted to pursue a career where I would be making a difference every single day," says Geary, adding, "Teaching gives my life purpose. It teaches me to be patient, to live life to the fullest, and to be a better person."
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