Christopher Landis recently became a viral sensation thanks to a pre-wedding gift given to him by his students (which, if you haven't seen, can be viewed here. Fair warning...grab the tissues.) But, he has been a sensation at Hingham Middle School for far longer, six years to be exact, with students, staff and parents alike. Originally from West Virginia, Christopher began his teaching career at a small elementary school in Boyce, VA. Afterwards, he spent two and a half years teaching in Baltimore before moving to Massachusetts. Mr. Landis is known for being a wonderful role model for his students and creating a classroom environment where every child can succeed and thrive. And perhaps most importantly, the lesson he is teaching around the world is that all you need is love.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
In school, I really looked up to my chorus teacher (Mrs. Likins) and my English teacher (Mrs. Staub). I was often bullied and teased in school, and I felt protected when I was around them. Their room was a place where I could be myself. They looked after me. I don't know if it was the initial reason I became a teacher; however, I often look back and realize how safe they made me feel. I hope that I can do the same for students - allow them to safely be who they are.
Who do you find to be the most inspiring person in Hingham?
I would have to say Dr. Dorothy "Dot" Galo. I respect her for her many years in education. I admire her perseverance through the many changes, hardships, and experiences she has endured as an educator. I can only hope to have as much endurance as she throughout my years in teaching.
If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or deceased, who would it be and why?
I would like to speak to my dad again. My dad passed away when I was 12. I would love to talk with him and share with him the stories of my life and career.
If you could pass along one message to your 21 year-old self, what would it be?
You are going to make a decision that will impact your life forever. You will move away from everyone you know, and basically start over. Be brave. You will make many new friends along the way who will become your family away from home. Your family back home will miss you, and you will miss them; however, they will be proud of you for finding yourself and your truth.
When presented with two options, when did you make a choice that totally changed the course of your life?
Actually, the choice was made for me. When I was in the 9th grade, I wanted to take Physical Education as a class. I grew up in West Virginia, and as a graduation requirement starting in the 9th grade, you only had to take Physical Education for one complete year. I was part of a Junior High system (7th - 9th grades), and so I wanted to get the class out of the way. I was not athletic, and I did not want to be intimidated by the high schoolers. I went to Coach Colebank and asked him to sign my schedule to take the class. He would not sign my schedule. I went to the administration, and they informed me that Coach Colebank could sign schedules at his discretion. The only class that would fit into my schedule at that point was chorus. I played the trombone in band, and I didn't need another music elective. Also, I had no idea if I could even sing. Before Mrs. Likins would sign my schedule for chorus, she asked me, "Can you sing?" To my response, "I don't know?!" And the rest is history. I owe Mrs. Likins a lot for instilling in me a love for music; so much so, I wanted to become a chorus teacher after graduation.
What is the most memorable moment of your teaching career?
Up to this point, it has been the video that has become a viral sensation. The message of love and acceptance demonstrated by the students and parents has become a story internationally. Joe and I were honored to have received such a gift, and we will never be able to thank them enough.
I would also say getting the job in Hingham. I remember putting together my resume packet and sending it into the school. While most applicants applied online on School Spring, I applied "old school" by sending in all of the paperwork (i.e., cover letter, recommendations, etc.) in one tangible packet. I can remember waiting for my final recommendation, and the deadline for submitting the application was the following day. I got the recommendation the evening before the deadline. Joe and I drove in the pouring rain to the FedEx in Braintree to get the material over-nighted. When I got the call for an interview and went through the processes of being hired, I could only think, "What if I hadn't over-nighted the packet? What if I had applied on School Spring?". When I got the call saying I had gotten the job, I remember getting off the phone and crying. This job meant a lot to Joe and me, as we were hoping to continue our relationship; however, the burdens of my long commute and our conflicting work hours made it difficult to see each other. I will often say this job is what saved our relationship.
You recently received national attention for the surprise performance by your students before your wedding. How did you feel in the moment when they began singing? How did you feel about the moment going "viral"?
In the moment when they began singing, I thought, "Oh Joe! You have really outdone yourself this time!". When the students started singing and the first word of the song was 'love', I became overwhelmed with emotion. Later, when I learned the parents and students had arranged the surprise, I really became emotional. I get choked up thinking about it. For them to think enough of my relationship with Joe, and to put in all the work behind the scenes to make it happen; again, I will never be able to thank them enough. I would never have expected the video to go viral; however, I think it is something the world needs right now. There is so much division in the world, and this act of kindness proved that people are innately good, thoughtful, and loving. It showed that LOVE IS LOVE and that it comes in all forms. It showed that love is to be cherished and respected, and people should find themselves lucky to experience love of any kind.
What do you love most about Hingham?
First, it's a great place to teach. I also love how picturesque the town is. I love Main Street in the fall, the old houses, and the bay when I go running through the town.
Favorite local spot?
I live in Weymouth. You can often find me at Capone's or Gusto's for takeout. In Hingham, it would be Scarlet Oak.
If you had a different career, what would it be?
A Broadway performer.
What is one thing on your bucket list?
To win a Grammy Award.
Do you have a hidden talent?
I am actually a decent artist.
Favorite vacation spot?
The Cape with my husband; West Palm Beach, FL with my best friend; and Smith Mountain Lake, VA with my family.
What's one thing people may not know about you?
I love the Miss America Pageant. At one point I could name all of the former Miss America's (at least their state) from the late 80's through the early 2000's. At one point, I was a certified judge for the local pageants that qualified contestants for the state pageant.