Amid the cheering and screaming students at Belleville East High School stood a couple seemingly oblivious to the noise around them.
Music teacher Timothy Hassall had just successfully proposed to dance team coach Kati Melton, and the students of Belleville East could not be more excited at the surprise during the POPS concert Wednesday night.
“I couldn’t be any happier,” Hassall said Thursday afternoon.
Melton was still giddy the next day, too.
“I was so floored, it’s been planned out,” she said. Melton said Hassall thought of “all the tiny details,” such as having her family there and out of sight until after the proposal.
Hassall said he and Melton have been dating for about two years, after first meeting in that high school gym. In addition to coaching the dance team, Melton has started a dance company for people with special needs, Without Limits. The studio will open this month, Melton said, and currently has about 25 clients who have ADHD, Down syndrome or sensory-processing disorders. She graduates with a master’s degree on Saturday.
Melton will also begin teaching special education at Freeburg High School in the fall. She will continue to coach the dance team at Belleville East.
Hassall said he wanted Melton “to feel special in that moment.”
“Kati and I have so much to do with these students here, and we both love them so much. It’s like a family, and I wanted them to be a part of it because they are a family,” he said.
Before the concert, Hassall had told a select few students about the proposal. He said “that when everything gets crazy, they need to stay on stage.”
The song he picked is not typically one performed by the jazz choir, he said, and he had to explain to one student in particular why they were going to go a little different this time.
After the choir performed “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, Hassall walked to Melton, who was sitting in the front row, and dropped to one knee. He helped design the engagement ring, which is Celtic inspired. It has two diamonds from the wedding ring his father gave to his mother.
“Dad passed in October, and I had his class ring in my pocket,” Hassall said. “I said my prayer, rubbed his ring and I went and did it. I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect.”