By MEL TOADVINE
Johnnie Mae Hawkins, a teacher at Lehigh Acres Middle School on Arthur Ave., began jumping up and down during a special teachers' meeting when the 70 teachers at the school were told 10 of them would receive $100 gift cards to use in their classrooms.
Happy Teachers: These are the teachers at Lehigh Acres Middle School who received $100 gift cards to be used for activities and supplies in their classrooms.
"Hey, look a me," screamed Hawkins. "I shop Wal-Mart right here in Lehigh all the time. You want me to go and get all the receipts I got to prove it. I want that $100 card," Hawkins shouted while the teachers all laughed.
When School Principal Joe Pitura let teachers pull out the winners' names at random from a small bag, Hawkins was the second recipient of the $100 gift card.
"Wow, oh my lord, I can use that," she screamed as she danced her way to the front of the library or media center to get her gift.
"That you, thank you, thank you," she said over and over again. The teachers applauded and laughed.
The presentation of 10 gift cards was made Friday, Sept., 18 by Sandy Sakeitous, an assistant manager at the Lehigh Acres Wal-Mart.
The teachers were called to the media center for a "teachers meeting." None of them knew the gift cards were going to be passed out.
Sakeitous said that Wal-Mart associates, a name used for employees at all Wal-Marts, had voted for which school to get the gift cards and the winner was Lehigh Middle School.
"So that is why I am here," Sakeitous said. "Wal-Mart believes in helping education. Last year Wal-Mart nationwide handed out $66 million to teachers," she said.
Each time that Principal Pitura had another teacher pull out a name, teachers were shouting, "draw mine, draw mine." And the teachers said while laughing they hoped they drew their own names, but that didn't happen.
Teachers often spend their own hard-earned money for supplies and other items used in their classrooms. And Sakeitous from Wal-Mart noted that since times were tough economically, Wal-Mart wanted to help teachers.
"You can use this in any way in your classroom," Sakeitous said.
Clifford Sheehan was really excited when his name was drawn.
"I'm going to be using that to make cakes," said Sheehan, who teaches sixth grade.
He said later that he had been learning how to bake by attending some area baking classes held in are retail sites.
"I wanted to do something special for my kids," he said. "You know, they were among the best classes in the county last year with their test scores.
"So what I had planned this year was to have a birthday party each month for my kids who are were born in that month. And I will be doing the baking," he laughed.
"The money will go for the ingredients, the sugar and all the mixings, and the cream cheese," he laughed.
Other teacher mentioned a variety of ways they would use the money with each saying it really was a great surprise gift that will help them because they have to dig in their own pockets often to buy things for their classes.
The 10 teachers who received specially marked Wal-Mart $100 gift cards included: Patty Golden, Johnnie Mae Hawkins, Ben Strunk Jr., a new teacher at the school; Katria Krakowiak, Sam Sokavhari, Gina Dyen-Shapiro, Clifford Sheehan, Danny McCulley, Gordan Hardy, another new teacher this year; and Hycianth Comrie.
Wal-Mart's assistant manager Sakeitous said it was probably the most exciting educational presentation she has ever been involved in. Each time a name was chosen, teachers screamed and cheered.
"We did it to help the teachers offset expenses and a really rough economy," she said.