Walmart surprised Harker Heights Elementary School teachers Oct. 10 with gift cards to purchase school supplies.

The Harker Heights store randomly selected 20 teachers and presented them each with a $50 Walmart gift card and a gift basket.

“At Walmart, we believe in operating globally and giving back to every local community where we do business,” said Juliana Knight, shift manager. “We acknowledge the dedication and sacrifice of the teachers here, and we know you care for our children and treat them as your own. We believe that the knowledge and skills you teach them today helps shape them into leaders of tomorrow.”

The elementary school may be rich in pride and history — the school turns 50 next year and the building is the oldest one still in operation within the city  — but Principal Carolyn Dugger said it’s poor in terms of the population’s financial reach.

Dugger said more than 85 percent of her 780 students are on free or reduced lunch and the school always appreciates when local businesses offer support.

“In the beginning of the year, Walmart helps us purchase school supplies for students who otherwise wouldn’t have a backpack or pencils or notebooks,” she said. “They help us help our students succeed.”

Walmart will donate $4.5 million this year to help 90,000 teachers in the U.S. purchase much-needed classroom supplies. In its fifth year, the Teacher Rewards program helps offset the cost of classroom expenses for teachers across the country. These funds come at a critical time, as teachers often spend their own money to ensure students have the supplies they need.

“I was totally surprised when they called my name,” said Erica Bracey, a first-grade teacher. “This gift card means a lot to me because it takes the burden off of me having to pay for supplies out of my pocket.”

Through the Teacher Rewards program, more than 4,600 U.S. Walmart stores, Distribution Centers and Sam’s Club locations are eligible to select one public school serving first through eighth grade and provide $50 reward cards to 20 teachers.

“Right before the assembly, my kids and I were talking about what we would use the money for if I got picked,” said Jennifer Schweigert, first-grade teacher. “They are just as excited as I am, and I’ll let them vote on what we spend the money on.”

According to Luz Opacki, personnel coordinator for the Harker Heights Walmart, teachers can use the funds to purchase essential items for their classrooms, such as paper or markers.

“Whether its giving a pencil to a child because theirs is worn down to a stub or providing a nutritious snack to a student who cannot focus because he or she is hungry, we know teachers here are going the extra mile to give back to their students,” Knight said.

Contact Vanessa Lynch at or 254-501-7567.

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