Teaching Profession

Stories to Make You Smile: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Surprises Retiring Teacher

By Madeline Will — May 08, 2020 3 min read
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How do you honor a beloved English teacher who’s retiring after 39 years in the classroom? Tweet at her favorite actor for 70 days to get her a shoutout.

When Carol Propst announced she was retiring from Virginia High School in Bristol, Va., science teacher Noah Ashbrook, who coaches the school’s Scholastic Bowl team with Propst, wanted to find a way to celebrate her. Propst, age 62, is a huge fan of Dwayne Johnson, the actor and former athlete known as “The Rock,” so students on the Scholastic Bowl team chipped in to get her a life-size cutout of Johnson. Ashbrook decided he would also start a Twitter campaign to see if he could get her an autograph.

The campaign, which used the hashtag #propstrocks, quickly took off. Ashbrook said his original plan was to tweet at Johnson every day until the Scholastic Bowl tournament, and then give Propst the life-size cutout at the tournament. But when the coronavirus outbreak canceled the tournament, he decided to keep tweeting. A former Virginia High teacher, Gary Skeen, also reached out to NBC about the campaign.

Finally, the request reached Johnson’s team, and the actor recorded a personalized video for Propst. He also sent her some bottles of his tequila and a personal note.

“I’m so happy for you, I’m so proud of you,” Johnson said in the video. “And being that this is Teacher Appreciation Week—on behalf of all parents, Carol, I say thank you. Thank you, and thank all of your fellow teachers for your wisdom, for your love, for your care, for your discipline, which I needed a lot if you were my teacher. Thank you so much for educating and for caring for our kids.”

Ashbrook arranged for Propst to come to the school, where she was surprised with the cutout, the gift, and the video. Local news site WCYB filmed her reaction.

“It was just complete shock and joy and disbelief,” Propst said of her reaction to the video. “I could not believe it was happening for me. ... What pleased me the most about the video was that particularly since it’s Teacher Appreciation Week—it’s a lovely shoutout to me, but he also praised teachers in general and all the sacrifices teachers make. He just seemed so sincere in that.

“That’s one of the things I really like about him,” Propst continued. “He joked about not being self-disciplined as a student. I see him as a very self-disciplined person [now]. He’s also just a caring, personable, fun, loving, and very kind human being. I think he’s a role model for a lot of people.”

Propst became a fan of Johnson after chaperoning a field trip to a movie theater in 2011. Students had the choice to see “Thor” or “Fast Five.” Propst wanted to see “Thor,” but by the time she reached the front of the ticket line, she realized that most other teachers had already chosen to see the superhero film—and she had no choice but to go see “Fast Five.”

“I was very disgruntled, [thinking] I’m really going to hate that dumb movie,” Propst remembered. “I was sitting there fuming. ... [But] I was hooked by the first scene of that movie, I was on the edge of my seat. Then, when Dwayne Johnson showed up, I was completely riveted. I’ve been a fan of his ever since.”

She’s watched the movie many more times since then. Her favorite scene is when Johnson’s character says, “I’ll ride with you, Toretto"—she’ll sometimes watch it on YouTube. Johnson included the line in a postscript to his note to her.

The surprise was a much-needed bright spot in what has been an “emotionally challenging” time, with school buildings closed for the rest of the year, Propst said. She’s touched by the effort that Ashbrook, as well as other members of the school community, put into making this happen.

“I’m just extremely humbled and grateful,” she said.

Image courtesy of Noah Ashbrook

For more stories to make you smile, see:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.

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