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A touching tribute to a teacher turns into a teaching moment for students

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UPDATE: This retired music teacher who inspired hundreds of students passed away Monday April 7. Miss Cynthia Magyary fought a courageous battle against cancer. Friends filled the church for her funeral service April 10. She was 57 years-old.

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Students at a local high school recently learned how one teacher can impact so many lives. Photojournalist Tim Dale and anchor/reporter Leslie Barrett found that a special performance hit just the right note for the retired music teacher and teens.

Melodies fill the air of Wilmington Area High School each day but this tune will play over and over again in the choir students' hearts.

"That was probably one of the best experiences I will ever have," said Katie Gordon, a junior at Wilmington.

The lyrics struck a chord because of the audience: longtime elementary music teacher Miss Cynthia Magyary who is fighting a tough battle against cancer.

She conducted students like senior Lexi Ligo as if they were her own children.

"She asked can you please join high school choir just one year. If you don't like it, you can quit after so I joined and I loved it; music is my life now and I thank her for everything," said Ligo.

Her notes have resonated with hundreds of others who write "I hold so many wonderful memories of elementary school because of you" and "you believed in me."

Twenty years ago, Miss Magyary's accompaniment set the tone for Seth Gruber.

"She took this young shy boy and forced him to sing a solo in these concerts and kind of got me out of my shell," said Gruber, a 2002 Wilmington graduate.

Her guidance ultimately led to his opera career.

"She saw something in me that I didn't see in myself and was able to bring it out."

Former students continue to lift their voices and arms to the patriotic anthem "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood that is forever burned into their memories from singing it in her class and concerts.

So the current high school choir knew exactly how to rally around Miss Magyary at her home. They sang her favorite songs: "God Bless the USA" and "It Is Well with My Soul."

"She was conducting with the choir, singing along, pretty much in her glory reliving those great memories of her life," said high school choral director Jonny Priano.

Ligo stated "I was grateful to do that for her because I knew she was loving it so it was very rewarding."

A gift Miss Magyary greatly appreciated, as she expressed in a note to the choir that reads in part "thanks again for giving us a memory we will never forget."

Neither will these students.

"There were really no words to describe what those kids had just experienced," said Priano.

A simple act of kindness to pay back a little bit of what an educator has given that turned into a teaching moment of its own.

Miss Magyary declined to talk on camera. In true character, she is still putting the focus on her students, wanting them to have the spotlight.

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