It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! Every teacher at Mesquite Elementary School was given a sweet surprise this morning from the principal.

Teachers started their day like normal and had no idea they were getting excused from school for a catered lunch from Outback Steakhouse at the Hilton in the East side.

Mesquite principal, Diane Vargo, made the big announcement this morning at 10:30 a.m. over the intercom. After the announcement and quick gathering at the school library, all 55 teachers and a few from administration filled up a charter bus one-by-one. The bus was covered by Mesquite’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association, who also plan to keep the celebrations going all week long.

Matthew Hough has been teaching for 23 years and for 15 of those, he’s worked at Mesquite. Hough was there for the last lunch that Principal Vargo organized which was close to 10 years ago!

“When it [intercom announcement] went off I’m like okay is it another award? Another A+, Blue Ribbonsomething that we get excited about,” Hough said. “Then when we got to the library, she broke the news and we were just really shocked.”

Principal Vargo kept this a secret for months, even hiding it from her assistant. She says only two other people knew. She organized staff from the entire district to substitute for her teachers and created all of the lesson plans. When I had a chance to sit down with her and ask her how she made this all possible, she got emotional while reflecting on her staff and the support she has with the Vail School District.

“These are happy tears, happy happy tears because in order for us to do this, we needed to have support from other districts and other school sites, and our district is a special place,” said Vargo. “And so is Mesquite.”

Hough says teachers don’t usually get a lunch break. He tells me he ate a big steak and buttery baked potato today, adding it was more filling and tasty than the soup he planned on eating.

“It was nice to be able to sit down and have a meal. Not have to work through it,” said Hough. “Not to do lesson plans or answer emails or phone calls.”

The veteran teacher says he enjoyed sharing a meal and talking with coworkers he usually doesn’t get the chance to see. Hough also says he’s going to do his part and help celebrate his own kids’ teachers.