PANAMA CITY BEACH — Hutchison Beach Elementary teacher Hannah Caskey has made quite an impression in her first year of teaching. On Monday, Walmart employees turned the tables and impressed her.
Caskey received a surprise visit from Pier Park Walmart associates bearing a large gift she will never forget in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. The store’s employees selected a local school at random and collaborated with school administrators to surprise Caskey for making a difference in children’s lives.
The Walmart team presented Caskey with more than $750 worth of school supplies, gift cards and a Walmart Plus membership to help her save time and money in the year ahead.
The surprise overwhelmed the first-year teacher, who mentioned how grateful she is to be part of a community that recognizes teachers’ efforts.
“I really didn’t see this coming or would have expected it, and everything was amazing. I love my job and my students, but I didn’t think it was something that would show itself in this way. I had no idea this was coming,” she said. “My administrators just asked me to put together a list of things I needed for my classroom, and to have Walmart surprise me with most of them is a blessing.”
Caskey currently teaches first-graders and is committed to ensuring her students have what they need to succeed. Next year, she will teach fourth-graders and will need a lot of new items to get her classroom ready.
Teachers often spend their own money buying classroom supplies. Caskey said she has spent about $250 this school year on her classroom.
“It’s crucial for teachers to receive gifts like these, and it’s pretty discouraging to think teachers have to come out of pocket for so many things,” Caskey said. “But everything is worth it because I enjoy seeing my students learn, but it’s painful for our pockets because teachers don’t make enough money.”
Caskey is now a Walmart Plus member, a $98 annual membership program that offers subscribers in-store and online benefits. Some of the benefits include free shipping with no minimum purchase required, free home delivery on orders of more than $35, discounts on fuel and a mobile scan and go option for a contactless checkout using a cellphone.
Store manager Jennifer Ross said it would save Caskey about eight hours a month by letting Walmart employees shop for her.
“I’m glad we’re able to help bridge that gap, especially with Caskey being a new teacher,” Ross said about the membership. “It’s just an amazing thing we get to do at Walmart, and it’s a great benefit for teachers and families.”
Ross said her store recognizes Teacher Appreciation Week each year and participates in similar surprise occasions throughout the year. In addition, her store has given back to local residents and organizations, including the Children’s Advocacy Center, the Junior League of Panama City, Toys for Tots and others.
“There’s a lot of need in our community, and Walmart allows me the opportunity to give back to our community in a fantastic way. It’s just so enriching to be able to spread the gifts that Walmart gives us and take them back into homes and schools,” she said.