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Patriot Elementary teacher returns from Chicago Marathon to a surprise from students

surprise decor from students

Patriot Elementary 5th-grade teacher Andrew Nabity returned to school after taking a couple of days off to run in the Chicago Marathon and was stunned by what he saw when he walked into his classroom.

His classroom had been transformed! Balloons were strung across the front of the room with his race number on it, each chair had a decorated sign that looked like race bib number, ribbons were strewn across the room, posters congratulating their teacher on his accomplishment on the walls, and at the front displayed on the whiteboard was a giant card with pictures of Nabity from the marathon.

Nabity was taken aback.

"I never expected anything like that from them," Nabity said. "I know they were excited to see my medal, but this meant more to me than the medal itself."

The 5th-grade teacher would soon learn that there were a lot of working pieces to make the surprise possible, including the students letting the substitute teacher in on the idea as well as somehow finding his marathon pictures.

bib number balloons

(Cy Draft poses with Nabity's race number balloons)

So who was the organizer behind the effort? Turns out one of Nabity's students Cy Draft was the ringleader.

As soon as Cy learned his teacher who the students refer to as "Nabs" was running a marathon, he was very impressed.

"I decided to decorate the classroom because I was extremely proud of Mr. Nabity when I saw he finished and because I know that not a lot of people can just go outside and run 26.2 miles in 5 hours," said Cy. 

Nabity told his class he was running the marathon because he wanted to inspire his students. 

"I kept them in the loop because I want them to know that they can do absolutely anything. I do not fit the “mold” of a runner. I have never been a runner in my life," Nabity explained.

Nabity runs a marathon and inspires students

(Nabity poses with his Chicago Marathon medal)

Nabity's students and their families have been supportive of him running the marathon ever since they found out about it. 

"They have honked as they have driven by me during my long runs in training and they have helped choose songs for my playlists. Every step of the way, they have been along on this journey with me."

The day Nabity left for the marathon, Cy went home and told his mom Lindsay Draft, he wanted to do something special for his favorite teacher.

Lindsay loved the idea of wanting to welcome Nabity back with a surprise.

"Mr. Nabity is worth celebrating all of the time! He is always encouraging and pushing his students to be the best person they can be," Lindsay Draft explained.

"His passion for teaching is palpable and his lessons extend far beyond the four walls of his classroom. He is the teacher his students will always remember."

Knowing they wanted to pull off a surprise, they got to work brainstorming all weekend about what they could do. They found his bib number and tracked his progress during the race.

"We were all thrilled and celebrating here when we saw that he had finished a marathon. Cy and I talked about what an amazing accomplishment that was," Lindsay said.

students made their own decorations to celebrate their teacher

(Students made their own decorations to celebrate their teacher)

They then reached out to Nabity's substitute teacher to ask if they could come in and decorate the room. Once she agreed, "Operation Surprise Nabs" began.

"The biggest part of pulling this off was to keep it a secret," Cy said.

"The other big part was to find all of the decorations and making them look real."

They picked out some decorations including the bib number balloons. Lindsay reached out to another Patriot Elementary mom and marathoner to see if she had any pictures of Nabity from the race.

The substitute teacher Mrs. Gryzwa then helped the students decorate the room and draw up their own decorations. The students told Gryzwa they were excited to able to congratulate their teacher by decorating the room. 

Cy hopes his classmates learn that even the smallest thing such as decorating a classroom has a big impact. 

"I hope Mr. Nabity knows that his students really do care about him and are proud of him for accomplishing this great feat," Cy said. 

Lindsay hopes the takeaway is that the students saw that Nabity set a goal and achieved it. She also hopes Nabity felt the love and support from his students. 

"He plays such a vital role in their lives. He is there when we are not and he is invested in every student every day," she said. 

Nabity was left feeling absolutely speechless when he saw what his students had done upon his return.

"To know the support and encouragement that they (and their families) have given me is unforgettable. It means the world to me knowing that they were cheering me on that Sunday. It is something that I will never forget."

Ultimately, Nabity hopes the students learned through hard work, they can accomplish anything they want.