Beloved dental specialist surprised with $20K for 20 years at work

Texas dental assistant Sophia Teel is celebrating "20 yrs of fabulousness."

April 29, 2022, 4:14 AM

A video of a Texas dental assistant receiving $20,000 in cash from her employers to mark 20 years on the job went viral as the ultimate example of employee appreciation.

Orthodontists Mike Nelson and Ron Risinger of Beaumont, Texas, surprised Sophia Teel with $1,000 for each year she's worked at the practice in recognition of her upcoming 20-year anniversary with their office. The video of the surprise has been reposted across different platforms, receiving millions of views.

"This is the kinda employee appreciation we wanna see!! I love it 🙌🏼🙌🏼 Congrats to her ❤️🔥", one Twitter user wrote.

Teel told "Good Morning America" that she was in "sheer shock."

"I was thinking, 'Good grief, I got a month left before 20 years. I know I'm not getting fired,'" she said, explaining her hesitation as she entered the room in the video.

Teel started at Risinger & Nelson Orthodontic Specialists as an intern in May 2002. She was soon offered a position that she said she's loved ever since.

"This is the perfect position," Teel said. "Kids are getting braces on to love their smile, to get more confidence. Usually at the end, they're very happy. So this is a fun job.”

Dr. Nelson told "GMA" that Teel plays a large role in building that confidence and making clients comfortable when they come into the office.

“Sophie is a great example of someone who just brings joy and happiness to the office every day,'' he said.

Dr. Risinger told "GMA" that he and Nelson try to acknowledge employees’ major milestones in fun ways and wanted to do something special for the practice’s first 20 year anniversary celebration, especially after hearing that Teel is set to close on her first home soon.

"Sophie is not only an employee, but she's a family friend and a very valuable person to have around you," Risinger said.

He estimates that he and Teel have spent close to 40,000 hours together over the past two decades.

“She saw this small little operation grow to the size it is now and she's one of the reasons we're successful," he said.

Nelson and Risinger said it's important to them that their employees know they’re appreciated.

“The things that we're able to do for our family and our team here, really it's about having fun and to us it's a small reflection of the greatness that they give back to us and the patients here in the office,” Nelson said.

Risinger, whose son and future daughter-in-law are also studying to be orthodontists, hopes to continue paying it forward, adding that he'd be happy to do something like this again for Teel in another 20 years.

“I am grateful–I was humbled that day–but I am grateful and it's an awesome feeling to be appreciated in such a manner and the whole world knows that you’re appreciated," she said. "That was awesome."

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