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Favorite Student from ’80s Surprises Retired Teacher on 80th Birthday



Quick Smiles:

  • Retired teacher Karen Solomon was gifted a surprise reunion with her favorite kindergarten student from the 1980s for her 80th birthday.
  • Seyi Fayanju, who now works as a doctor, happened to be on the East coast and was able to attend the surprise reunion in Wisconsin.
  • The birthday surprise ended in joy and tears as old memories were shared and precious moments recalled.

For her beloved mother, Karen Solomon’s 80th birthday, Debra Solomon had a unique birthday gift in mind. Karen had spent 27 years of her life nurturing young minds as a teacher, always holding a special place in her heart for one kindergarten student, Seyi Fayanju.

Dreaming of a reunion, Debra shares, “I could think of only one present for my mom, a reunion with her favorite student from the 1980s, when she taught at a school in Verona, New Jersey.”

After finding Fayanju’s profile online, where he works as a doctor at Stanford University, Debra reached out, hoping distance wouldn’t hinder Fayanju from making it.

Debra was in luck, “the stars aligned and Seyi was flying back from a conference on the East Coast that week, so a Wisconsin stop was added to the schedule!” Seyi revealed.

At the right moment, Seyi was brought into the room to surprise Mrs. Solomon. The moment was magical. “When he appeared, my mom jumped for joy,” Debra says. “Everyone in the room was crying—tears of happiness and love.”

Seyi shared his respect for Mrs. Solomon, who he describes as “a phenomenal teacher, mentor, and friend for my family”.

Fayanju shared his experiences as an immigrant from Nigeria in a predominantly African-American or Latino school, saying, “We came from very different cultures… I had never met someone who celebrated Hannukah, so I learned about her culture and so much more.”


Even after moving away and Mrs. Solomon’s retirement, Fayanju stayed in touch. He thanked her for her guidance when starting college and even got a chance to connect via video during the pandemic.

During the reunion, Seyi noticed that Mrs. Solomon still wore a bracelet his parents had given her in the 1990s.

The reunion, celebrating Mrs. Solomon, was also a tribute to the indisputable influence of her teaching. “I think that if people are able, they should take the time to reach out to those teachers, mentors, and coaches that helped them to be better versions of themselves.”

The surprise reunion turned out to be an unforgettable event for all. Mrs. Solomon expressed her gratitude to her daughters, choked with emotion, “I will never forget the incredible surprise reunion—especially when it turned out to be my favorite student.”


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