School district supports music teacher after ALS diagnosis

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PLUM CITY, Wis. (WEAU) -- A Wisconsin music teacher is being honored after a medical diagnosis has taken him out of the classroom.

Wednesday, the Plum City School District presented Mike Bonn, music teacher and head of the music department for years, with two checks to show support during a difficult time.

Bonn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease or ALS in August. The diagnosis has forced him to retire from teaching. “It’s like being an empty-nester but you multiply it by 250," he joked.

His nest has been full of support for the last 27 years. "I taught for 25 of those years right across the hallway from him and I heard him, talking laughing, interacting with kids…encouraging them.” Angie Laehn, fellow teacher says Bonn has a natural connection with his students.

Her husband Shaughn, also a teacher at the district agrees. The couple has known Bonn for the majority of their time working at the school. "Kids might not have thought of themselves as musicians to start with but he made them feel that way and they became musicians when they were with him," said Mr. Laehn.

He also adds that it’s important for teachers to connect with students and says Bonn has done that through music.

"When kids walk into your room for a band lesson, or a choir walks in…listening to music being played on a piano as they get their folders and sit down, they know it’s going to be a good day," said Bonn.
He says as a music teacher he provided a place for students to have fun while learning. "They can take all their troubles about the math test that they flunked the hour before and let them slide away for a little while and have fun,” he joked.

Justin Nunez, a Plum City High School senior has been a student of Mr. Bonn since kindergarten. "Music is a big part of my life and he's made it such a big part of my life. I’m so happy that I’ve had him as a teacher," said Nunez, who helped honor and present the two checks to Bonn during Wednesday’s ceremony.

“He’s just got a certain charisma, he’s really perky all the time, he’s always happy, he is always friendly,” said Nunez. Bonn says his time as a music teacher has been more than just a career but a love and a passion.

Bonn says things have been difficult since his diagnosis. "One of the hardest things for me is not only have I lost my career, but I’ve lost my ability as a musician,” he said. Bonn says he loves to play the piano, the clarinet, the trombone, and baritone horn, but the disease has kept him from being able to.

Despite the challenge, he's maintaining a positive spirit through it all.
“That’s one of the reasons for my success in the school district is to have a smile on your face and a song in your heart,” he said.

He’s passing that valuable lesson onto the many students who look up to him. “Every day is a gift and that’s why they call it the present and people should live that way,” said Bonn.