Jennifer Lee, of Greensboro, North Carolina, says she’s always enjoyed seeing parents post sweet back-to-school photos of their children online. Even though her 1-year-old daughter Harper Lee is too young for her own snap, Jennifer didn’t let that stop her from celebrating the big day.
“I thought, ‘Tyrelle is going back to school in a few days — I’ll just make him take a photo with his own sign,” Jennifer, 34, tells PEOPLE of her husband, Tyrelle Lee, 33. “He loves doing fun things to connect with his students, so I thought this would be a good way to do that.”
So, Jennifer carefully crafted a sign for her husband and, on Aug. 27, — the first day of school in the county — she had Tyrelle pose in front of their home for the shot, before sending him off to teach social studies at Southeast Guilford Middle School.
In the back-to-school photo, Tyrelle is shown holding a sign declaring his 1,080th day of school, along with fun facts about the eighth grade teacher.
“I told him a few days beforehand that I was making him a sign and he was going to take a ‘first day of school’ photo. He said ‘Okay,’ but I don’t think he took me seriously,” Jennifer recalls to PEOPLE. “When he actually saw the sign, he laughed, but still didn’t think I was going to make him actually take a picture to post.”
She adds: “He’s laid back, so he went ahead and did it even though he wasn’t completely thrilled!”
In the shot, Tyrelle is shown holding the sign with a serious expression, and even rolled his eyes.
“I think he partly did the eyeball roll because he knew it would make the picture funny, but a little part of him still couldn’t believe I was actually going to post it on social media,” she says. But she did, and the Facebook photo has been shared 37,000 times.
Despite his initial attitude, Tyrelle has loved that the photo is putting a smile on so many faces, Jennifer says. She tells PEOPLE that his students couldn’t help but gush about seeing their teacher in a viral picture.
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Tyrelle is already known around school due to his large collection of Vans sneakers, but his new status as a viral sensation has only gotten him more attention.
“The whole experience has been a lot of fun for me, too. Family, friends, and coworkers have all shared the photo and told us how funny it was,” Jennifer tells PEOPLE. “I’m really proud of him — he is a wonderful teacher and [high school football] coach and I love how he interacts and connects with his students and athletes. They really look up to him!”