West Ottawa High School teacher gets surprise honor at graduation

Posted at 11:32 PM, May 23, 2019

More than 500 seniors at West Ottawa High School walked across the stage and were awarded diplomas Thursday night, but not before getting a speech from one of the most beloved teachers in their school.

In his close to two decades of teaching at West Ottawa High School, Brian Taylor has not missed a graduation.

Ironically he never graduated high school himself, but that has not stopped him from becoming a widely-respected teacher and why this year's senior class chose him to give their commencement address.

It was a special night for more than 500 West Ottawa seniors and their families and a night West Ottawa history and government teacher Brian Taylor has helped get them to.

Along the way there were lessons.

Taylor’s own path to teaching is unusual to say the least.

A high school drop out three times over, Taylor ended up broke and homeless before deciding to give school another shot.

"To keep things in perspective I left high school without a diploma and with a 1.9 cumulative gpa," Taylor, said.

Eventually he went to Santa Barbara City College, which didn’t require a diploma,  just an entrance exam, before transferring to a four-year university in New York.

From high school dropout to educator, Taylor's story is one of perseverance. One that’s not about how you start but how you finish.

A message that resonated with the graduates who walked the line shortly after but that's not how this commencement ended.

Brian Taylor was invited back on stage, for the surprise of a lifetime.

"Your days of not having a high school diploma are over," Principal Jason Reinecke, said.

Taylor's 17th graduation didn't end as expected..

"On behalf of West Ottawa Public Schools I’m proud to award you with a class of 2019 West Ottawa High School honorary diploma.

"I think it's a good message for the kids to realize that even though they haven’t done something and it might be several years in the future, they can still do it its never too late," Brown, said.

"It's a great testament to what can happen if you never give up its kind of amazing," Brown, added.