Garner, N.C. — When Scotty McCreery got to pick one person to invite to the "American Idol" finale, he chose his choral teacher at Garner Magnet High School, Meredith Clayton.
She joined McCreery and his family for dinner after the last competition show, in which he faced off against Lauren Alaina, of Rossville, Ga.
"He said the blessing for the meal, and we were all on our phones voting," Clayton recalled.
In the results show the next night, Clayton got her own moment in the spotlight. "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest handed her the keys to a new Ford Focus.
Hearing McCreery named as the winner, though, was a bigger moment, Clayton said.
"Everybody (was) screaming and cheering. I don't know what it was. It was almost like an out-of-body experience," she said.
Even after the win, McCreery is the same teenager she's known, Clayton said.
"He just seems normal. It doesn't seem to have shaken him," she said. "He seems happy. He seems to enjoy it. He seems very focused and driven."
McCreery took a secret, one-day trip back to Garner last week to take his Advanced Placement English exam.
"It was kind of a secret. Nobody knew where he was taking it," Clayton said. "He is keeping on top of his school work, and he will graduate, and his mom said he will go to college."
Clayton said she's proud of her student, but she doesn't take credit for turning him into an "American Idol" champion.
"I think he had a gift from God, and he had two wonderful parents that raised him, and I'm the lucky one that just by chance was his teacher," she said. "To think that I played a role in encouraging his love for music and his confidence as he's grown, it makes me feel wonderful."