VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - COVID-19 has changed our normal way of doing so many things, including graduations. There's one Virginia Beach teacher who was not going to let the coronavirus stop a certain tradition from how they honor their students.
Jeff Christman was determined that not even a pandemic was going to keep him from being a part of Kellam High's graduations. It means a lot to students like Grace Tammaro.
"I didn't know that he was going to be doing this for all of the students but I'm glad he did," she said.
What the graduate is talking about is the sound of bagpipes wafting across the school's campus. Christman, a former Marine, has been teaching history and economics at Kellam for more than two decades, and he's been playing the bagpipes for most of his life.
The school has gotten used to his hobby being a part of school graduations. On Saturday, he was running into former students of his.
"Yesterday was the first time I encountered kids I had in 2002 - whose own kids are graduating today - and they remembered when I played the bagpipe for them," Christman told us.
For years in previous graduations, he would lead the faculty into the Virginia Beach Convention Center and then lead the students out. But due to COVID-19 and social distancing, the seniors are essentially getting individual ceremonies, and Christman has agreed to play the bagpipes for every 12th grader.
That means doing this 482 times.
Kellam Principal Ryan Schubart is so grateful Christman was up for the challenge.
"The bagpipe is very meaningful to us; to have a graduation without it was going to be a little bit strange. It's already strange, but that sort of brought that tradition back in and made this special for everyone," Principal Schubart explained.
Initially, Schubart wasn't expecting Christman to volunteer to do all the performances once they got word of how COVID-19 restrictions would impact the graduations, which were spread out over four days.
"He sent me an email and he said, 'Mr. Schubart, how can I help?' And I was like, 'You realize we have 482 graduates, so you would have to do this 482 times. I don't think you can do that.' He goes, 'I'll figure it out.'"
And that's exactly what Christman did.
"That's gotta be some kind of record, no matter where you go. [I've] done a lot of bagpiping, but never done anything like this. It's a lot of fun. It's a privilege - an honor," Christman said.
That's why News 3 presented him with a People Taking Action award, along with a $300 Visa gift card from our community partner, Southern Bank.
Christman was grateful to be honored for his dedication in honoring the students.
To nominate someone for a People Taking Action Award, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.