Will.i.am choked back tears on TV on Thursday as he was reunited with the high school teacher who encouraged him to pursue his musical dreams.

Encouraging a kid, especially when they come from nothing, it goes a long way. You don't know where I would have been if it wasn't for people like Ms Montez

The Black Eyed Peas frontman was a guest on U.S. broadcaster Katie Couric's daytime talk show to promote Ekocycle, his new recycling initiative with beverage giant Coca-Cola, and he opened up about a former health teacher, Ms Montez, who "changed his life" by giving him the attention and encouragement he needed to launch a career in the spotlight.

Montez was then brought out onstage and will.i.am fought back tears as she praised him for his charity work.

She told the audience, "My best memories of Will is (sic) he was just... he feels like family to me, even after all this time, to me, he just feels like family. I'm proud of everything (he's done), but he's so philanthropic, I just respect that so much".

will.i.am returned the favour by thanking Montez for helping him overcome his childhood shyness and show off his musical talents, because her kindness helped him avoid a life of trouble on the streets of his native East Los Angeles.

He said, "Encouraging a kid, especially when they come from nothing, it goes a long way. You don't know where I would have been if it wasn't for people like Ms Montez (sic)".