Fayetteville educators return to cheers, surprise gifts

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 122 views 

Fayetteville educators and administrators gathered Friday (Aug. 16) to celebrate new additions to Fayetteville High School and prepare for the district's new school year.

But the 26th Annual Fayetteville Teachers Expo did not just feature the new building and some new faces – it also featured a lot of freebies and giveaways provided by more than 70 vendors, including six food vendors who provided lunch for the more than 750 teachers and administrators on hand for yesterday's event.

The event, sponsored by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, Preferred Office Products and The City Wire, among others, was a way to say thank you, according to Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan.

"I cannot thank you all enough for what you do," he told the crowd of assembled teachers in the district's new fine arts center inside part of the $90 million expanded FHS. "I know you the hold the next generation of leaders in your hands."

Jordan said the impact made by the teachers would be so great, it would be immeasurable.

"You take a hand and touch a heart in every student's life. And they in turn will change the world."

Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Clark echoed those sentiments, reminding teachers of the impact they would make during the upcoming 2013-2014 school year.

"Your's is the only organization we know of in this city that takes 750 people and impacts 9,000 lives," he said.

Among the vendors on hand to provide educators with freebies was Houndstooth Press, a sister company to the Houndstooth clothing retailer familiar in many Arkansas malls for their distinctive Razorback t-shirts and hats.

As he helped physical education teacher Brandon Craft of Holt Middle School learn how to screen print his own t-shirt, Production Manager Justin Brasher discussed why his company chose to take part in the expo and give away more than 1,200 custom-printed t-shirts free of charge.

"It's a way to say thanks," Brasher said, adding that the event also allowed the company to highlight the custom screen printing and embroidery services his company could provide the district.

Craft said having so many different companies, from financial companies to restaurants, come out and make a special day for the educators of Fayetteville meant a lot.

"It's awesome that the community supports what we do," he said, adding that some of the booths that dealt with healthy living would be something he could take back to the classroom. "Anything I can take back to class to keep my kids healthy is a benefit."

Among the door prizes given out to teachers attending the event were iPad minis valued at $400 and full-body hair removal, valued at $7,000. And while all the prizes given away were a surprise, one had special significance.

New office furniture, valued at $3,400, provided by Preferred Office Products, along with office supplies provided by Sam's Club, was given to Fayetteville School District's Gifted and Talented Director Barbara Prichard. But she did not even know she was in the running, according to Preferred's director of business development, Kevin Dickinson.

"She was nominated by a co-worker highlighting her need for the office, but the essay was also on her work ethic and how she puts everyone else first," he said. "It was about 50/50 her work ethic and helping others and her need for the furniture."

Included in the furniture, which will be delivered to her within weeks of the start of school, will be a new desk, a high-end desk chair and a bookshelf.

Prichard said she was not expecting to get what she believes is the first new office furniture in her long teacher career at today's event, and she has nothing but joy.

"It's gratitude beyond what I could even imagine. I mean, that's what means the most, is that a staff member would take the time in their busy schedule to even write something like that up, so it's very humbling for sure," she said.

Prichard's excitement and the excitement of last year's winner, school psychologist Jennifer Shreve, are just part of the reason Preferred started the contest, where teachers were able to submit essays on The City Wire website explaining why they, or a colleague, were deserving of new office equipment, said Preferred Office Products President Joe Dickinson.

"It's something we can do (to help) and just the ladies' reactions (last year and this year) made it worth while."