The group of students who joined Tim McGraw onstage for his performance of "Humble and Kind" at the 2016 CMA Awards weren't just random kids; rather, they were there to honor their late teacher. Adding another layer of significance to the meaningful performance, the group of young boys and girls who shared the stage with McGraw were students of Ben Ellis, a Nashville teacher who died in September after a long battle with cancer.

When a group of students carrying white candles began to surround McGraw during his CMAs performance, it seemed like the perfect way to encapsulate the message of "Humble and Kind" for young people as they begin to enter the wider world -- but knowing that the kids were paying respect to their late teacher, their candles became a beautiful vigil, and the performance became all the more significant. Lori McKenna, the song's writer (and winner of Song of the Year), McGraw's wife Faith Hill and even McGraw himself were moved to tears during the unforgettable performance.

McGraw first learned Ellis' story in September, after a friend shared a video of over 400 students from Christ Presbyterian Academy serenading their beloved teacher with his favorite hymn, "Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here." The students had traveled to their teacher's home to sing and pray with him, and just a few days later, Ellis passed away. McGraw was so moved by their act that he shared the video (which quickly went viral) and ultimately invited a group of them to join him at the CMAs.

"The example of love and kindness that showed in his heart through his teaching has impacted so many of his students, and through them has and will continue to impact the world," McGraw wrote on Instagram after learning of Ellis' passing on Sept. 16. "Time well spent Mr. Ellis, time well spent sir ... rest now, for you shall be well received."

Ellis taught Latin and Bible Studies at Christ Presbyterian Academy, and according to CNN, he kept working at the school until the very month he died "because the distraction helped him through it." In many ways, his dedication to his students and their maturing as wise and compassionate human beings was the perfect illustration of the message behind "Humble and Kind," and turned McGraw's CMA performance into a simply unforgettable moment.

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