For over 40 years, one thing the Elgin Public School system and its students could count on, was elementary music teacher Nelson Ottinger, known by all that knew and loved him as "Mr. O". Ottinger has been a staple in the Elgin Community for 41 years, but in February, he announced his retirement.

To honor their beloved teacher, the Elgin Public School System held a celebration last Friday, as students from every Elgin school and grade level gathered to pack the gym at Elgin High School, where the school's student council put on a musical performance. They were joined by the teachers family, friends and former students to enjoy the performance of "Through the Decades", honoring Ottinger with songs from some of the musicals they performed in during his tenure in Elgin. Not only was the event a surprise for the honored educator, but also for many of the attendees, who had no idea the event has been planned for months, and were in the dark until arriving.

The students prepared for this day for four months, hiding their plan from Ottinger the whole time. But students felt it was all well worth all the secrecy, to honor a man who is so important to the community. In November, the Elgin student council had decided to honor someone in the community with a performance; it didn't take long to figure out who to honor. At the time, the students did not know of Mr. O's plans to retire.

There was more to Friday's gathering than just the performance. The students presented Mr. Ottinger with several ties. Students who knew and loved him for his desire to dress a little different than most teachers, so they gave him ties to suit his style, evidenced by the purple suit he wore that day. The students then showed a video they created of several Elgin alumni who could not be in attendance, giving their thoughts on their beloved music teacher.

"When asked one way to describe Mr. O, my favorite response was the person said they wanted to pass because there isn't one word, there's simply not. He has so many things and so many noble characteristics that every single person should try to be and I feel extremely fortunate that I was lucky enough to have him in class for as long as I did," Dunavent said.

When that retirement announcement finally came in February, everyone involved knew that this was the perfect going away present. Based on the turnout of hundred's of people on Friday, it echoed a common feeling in Elgin.

source: KSWO news