Crider Foods has equally split $6,000 worth of classroom goods among four different teachers from various institutions, thanks to its inaugural Teacher Pay It Forward Program. The first-ever winners include Metter High’s Elizabeth Hoeger, Swainsboro Primary’s Chawny Stewart, David Emanuel Academy’s Clint Inman, and Twin City Elementary’s Marla Hooks.
The philanthropic initiative was conceptualized earlier this year, according to Aaron M. Schoeneberger, marketing director for the Stillmore-based company. “With COVID-19, with what teachers went through last year, with what they’re going through this year, and with state and federal budget cuts, we wanted to just give back. Teachers are some of the most selfless people, and they impact people, our children, in the most profound way. We thought, ‘What can we do for the schools?’ We started small because we weren’t sure how this would go, and we decided to go with the Twin City, Metter, Swainsboro schools as well as David Emanuel in Stillmore. We did primary and secondary schools. It turned out great.”
In mid-June, Crider, with the help of intern Emma Katherine Mock, a now-senior studying public relations at Auburn, launched the program on Facebook as a contest. From June 21 through July 12, schools and communities in the vicinity of Crider, specifically those in Candler and Emanuel counties where most of the industry’s employees are from, were asked to nominate inspiring teachers. Up for grabs was $1,500 in classroom supplies from Amazon.
Originally, Crider intended the program to only have three winners. Schoeneberger explained the response was so great and the stories were so moving that a fourth winner was added to the pot.
Over the three-week nomination period, Crider received a total of 53 nominations and 38 different names to consider. Eight of those 38 received multiple nominations. Submitters were asked to name the teacher explicitly, specify his or her school, and give a specific example of when he or she went above and beyond for students.
The result was Hoeger, Stewart, Inman, and Hooks coming out on top as the winners. Crider made the announcement on July 22 on Facebook. They were then each given the opportunity to fill out an Amazon wishlist, which has since been shipped directly to their classrooms. Crider footed the bill entirely on its own; the $6,000 undertaking was a solo move on behalf of the company, not a collaborative effort.
The Chronicle reached out to those four lucky educators for their respective takes on the initiative designed to highlight the impact teachers have in the classroom and beyond. Below are the received responses. Stewart could not be reached as of press time for a quote or photo. Should The Chronicle receive either (or both) of those from Stewart, there will be an update published as soon as possible.
Hoeger: “The students I teach are such a blessing to me, and I truly love teaching them! I was honored to have been nominated as an inspiring teacher and was so excited to find out I was chosen as a winner. This contest allowed me the opportunity to obtain so many things for my high school level, self-contained classroom that will make learning even more fun and meaningful for my students.”
Inman: “I am humbled by the fact that students would nominate me for the award. We have so many teachers at David Emanuel that deserve recognition like this. I want to thank Crider Foods for creating this program and for recognizing local teachers.”
Hooks: “I am so very honored to be chosen as one of this year’s Pay It Forward winners. Teaching has always been my passion, and I am so blessed to get to do what I love! Often, I reflect on not how much I have taught my students but how much they have taught me throughout the years. I am so thankful to be a part of the best profession in the world!”
Overall, Schoeneberger says the program was a huge success, and Crider looks forward to offering it again in years to come.
“The program, I think, really demonstrated our commitment to educators and the community and the care they have for our most valuable asset, our children. With the success of the program this year, we fully intend to continue this year over year to make it something we do annually.”