LENEXA, Kan. — A Johnson County teacher was blown away by her students after she got an award for going above and beyond over the last decade in the classroom.

Dr. Helen Harrelson, a teacher at St. James Academy, scored when her band teamed up with a Sporting KC legend to surprise her with an award. 

Harrelson is the Blue KC Sporting Samaritan. It’s an honor Sporting KC and Blue Cross Blue Shield team up to hand out to deserving students and teachers across the community.

First, former Sporting star Matt Besler laid out the plan for the surprise.

“As soon as she walks through the door, I want a big ‘Surprise,'” Besler said. “So this is your chance to yell as loud as you want.”

Then it was game time, but Harrelson taught these band and choir students how to perform.

“Go Harrelson! Go Harrelson!” They cheered.

It was a kickoff to the school year that Harrelson never saw coming. For more than 15 years, she’s been the director of instrumental music at St. James Academy. On Thursday, she felt honored and humbled.

“I see so many wonderful educators, coaches that do exactly what I do, and so to be one of those recognized is wonderful,” Harrelson said.

Harrelson is a world renowned musician, originally from England.

In 2008, she helped found the Fountain City Youth Brass Academy that now features more than 150 members and numerous national championships. 

“She is a rockstar here at St. James,” St. James Academy President Andy Tylicki said.

Tylicki said Harrelson has grown their program from just a few guitars and a drum set to a thriving production with multiple ensembles. 

Senior Maggie Martinez plays the baritone saxophone. She said Harrelson helped take three of their ensembles to the Kansas Music Educators Association, which she said is unheard of.

“And she got all three of our groups there, and we got to perform in front of everyone,” Martinez said. “So it was huge.”

Harrelson draws a parallel from music to sports. 

“You know I’m always telling you guys, you’re athletes with instruments,” Harrelson said. 

She said it was special to have Sporting KC legend Belser in the band room.

“You can go find a way to be a leader, go find a way to positively impact one person and just start with that,” Besler said.

As part of the award, Harrelson was recognized at the Sporting KC game. She went on the field, visited the boot room and got a personalized jersey. 

Harrelson took this new opportunity to instill a message in her students.

“You don’t have to be the best, but if you just keep going, just keep showing up, one step at a time, you will have success,” Harrelson said.

“Go thunder!” They cheered. 

You can nominate a student or teacher for the Blue KC Sporting Samaritan here.