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Good Morning America honors Kay Owens
Posted in on April 19, 2024

Good Morning America Honors Mama O!

It was loud in the Martin High School auditorium this morning. In fact, the whole country could hear the cheers.

That’s because they were live on Good Morning America.

ABC News reporter Will Ganss – a Martin grad – brought the GMA crew to Arlington to celebrate and congratulate the teacher he affectionally calls Mama O.

Mama O – also known as Kay Owens – has been Martin’s choir director for the last 26 years, but her 41-year career in education is coming to an end next month when she retires.

And this morning, thanks to Ganss and GMA, Owens got the sendoff she deserves.

She had no idea it was coming.

“The fact that they wanted me to be here at 5:40 … I was like, um, I’m not a morning person … this better be good,” Owens said after the event.

An early-morning chorale practice had been scheduled for 6 a.m. She led the practice until an unexpected visitor popped in at about 7:30.

“When they opened the doors and Will Ganss was there, that got me,” Owens said. “I couldn’t believe it. And then walking in these doors [of the auditorium] and seeing all the people, I couldn’t believe it. I was blown away.”

Students, cheerleaders, fellow teachers, administrators and trustees roared when Ganss led Owens into the auditorium.

Arlington mayor Jim Ross was there, too, to declare April 19, 2024, Kay Owens Day.

“What I wanted the world to know – why I was thinking this would be great for a national audience is when you think Texas, I think a lot of people across the country think ‘Friday Night Lights’ – they’re thinking about football,” Ganss said. “But what they might be surprised by is that we have these incredible arts educators and art programs in public schools all over the state. And for us here in Arlington, we’ve had Ms. Owens for 41 years inspiring students, teaching them not only to be a good singer but how to be a better person. The stars aligned and it [bringing GMA to Martin to surprise Owens] went even better than I thought it would. It was so special.”

While dozens of current students cheered and waved signs on the auditorium stage as Ganss shared his appreciation for Owens on live TV, two of Owens’ former students hid behind the crowd until just the right moment.

When Ganss called Scott Hoying and Kirstin Maldonado of Pentatonix to come out, everyone went crazy with excitement. The former students of Owens wanted to show her their appreciation, too.

“Ms. Owens has had such an impact on so many students’ lives and she cares about music and cares about her students so so passionately,” Hoying said. “And she changed our lives, like she made me more passionate about music and she instilled a work ethic in us that I think has translated into a huge reason why Pentatonix is so successful. It’s just wild that her passion and how amazing of a teacher she is has had a butterfly effect that’s led to touching so many lives, and I’m just so glad she got this epic sendoff because it’s what she deserves.”

Owens was in shock, but there was still one more surprise. GMA’s big yellow mascot walked up carrying a big cutout of a cruise ship, and Ganss announced that Owens is getting a National Geographic cruise to the Galapagos Islands.

That will make retirement even more exciting. But it’s also bittersweet.

“Of course I’ll miss kids,” she said. “That’s why I’ve done the job as long as I have – it’s the kids.”

Which is exactly why Ganss, Pentatnoix and so many others cheered so loudly this morning.

See more photos from the surprise.