These kindergarteners surprised their school's deaf custodian by signing the entire 'Happy Birthday' song.

A big group of kindergartners doing anything in unison tends to be sweet, but this video takes the cake.

A school community is made up of much more than just students and teachers. From lunch servers to janitors, people who help keep schools running smoothly are important. And they can have a much bigger impact on kids than we often acknowledge.

The students and faculty at Hickerson Elementary School in Tennessee have a special relationship with their custodian, Anthony James. The joyful janitor known as "Mr. James" has been with the Coffee County School District since 1991, and had been working at Hickerson for 15 years. Those who know him describe him as "sweet," "selfless," and "always smiling."


For his 60th birthday, the kindergarteners sung—and signed—the Happy Birthday song for Mr. James.

Mr. James is hearing impaired. So kindergarten classes taught by Mrs. Allyssa Hartsfield and Mrs. Amy Hershman learned how to sign the words to the Happy Birthday song to surprise him. And surprise him they did.

The school shared the video on Facebook, and people are loving it:

Our Kindergarten classes learned how to sign Happy Birthday for Mr. James' birthday today. He was so surprised! 💛🖤💛🖤

Posted by Hickerson Elementary on Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Teaching kids to honor differences and appreciate every member of a community is a beautiful thing.

The video has struck a chord with alumni of Coffee County Schools and people everywhere. As the alumni sharing their memories of Mr. James in the Facebook comments attest, the dedicated custodian is simply receiving a dose of the joy and kindness he has spent decades spreading himself. It's clear that the love between Mr. James and the students in that community is mutual.

But the clip also shows how a simple gesture can mean so much to someone who communicates in a different way. The reaction of Mr. James to the students' surprise couldn't be more delightful, and those kids have now learned first-hand what a difference learning someone's language can make. What a wonderful gift to give someone who has given so much to so many kids for so long.

Happy Birthday to you, Mr. James!

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