Return to Headlines

Gift of HeART

It’s not unusual to see a group of ladies clean out the shelves of a Michaels arts and crafts store in December. What is unique is for the shopping spree to be free and courtesy of an athletic conference!


The shopping spree was able to take place courtesy of Conference USA’s Extra Yard for Teachers program. The athletic conference provided each of its 14 members with $10,000 worth of Michaels gift cards to give to teachers in need in each of the universities’ geographic area.



Denton ISD elementary school art teachers were joined by student-athletes and cheerleaders from the University of North Texas to take part in a $10,000 shopping spree at the Michaels at Denton Crossing.



“This gift means our kids get to do a lot of projects we wouldn’t normally afford because we have a list of basic supplies we receive and I’m focusing on getting the ‘little extras,’” said Jamie McCormick from Rivera Elementary.



While other universities chose to allot that donation to a single campus, UNT Athletics sought to find a way to deliver the biggest impact. A longtime district partner through the Denton ISD Adopt-A-School program, UNT Athletics worked with district staff to determine how best to give back. That legwork led to the involvement of the district’s elementary art teachers – who reach almost 12,000 students in class each week.



“Denton is a vibrant community, with a large appreciation for the arts so we thought, ‘why not give back in an area where we know it will have a large impact and be appreciated by the community the most?’ It just made the most sense,” said Jamie Adams, assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions at UNT.



Teachers filled their carts with yarn, feathers, clay cutting tools and other items that don’t appear on the typical student school supply list. Teachers noted that these “extras” help enhance students’ creativity in addressing the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the state’s required curriculum.



As the event evolved, teachers shared ideas for lesson plans and tips among themselves for making products last longer. Members of the Michaels sales team shared cost savings ideas, coupons and rebates to make the $400 gift cards that each teacher received go further toward purchases.



“Did you hear that the dry erase crayons work well on aluminum foil?” asked Kelley McGee from Adkins Elementary as she shopped with a colleague. “I saw that at a conference once but never thought I would be able to buy enough to stock my classroom adequately – that changes today!”



As the cashiers tallied, cheers erupted and teachers high-fived as they strategized how to spend each card down to the last penny. Kate Wurtzel, from Bell Elementary, was one of the closest to accomplish that goal, leaving only $1.67 on the card and promising to be back to use the rest.



The message brought smiles and laughs from several teachers in line and let district officials and UNT Athletics staff soak in the benefits of a partnership that has brought a lot of joy to students and teachers alike. 


“At UNT, we pride ourselves on being a strong liberal arts university and while we all cheer at football, basketball and the athletic events, we really hope our local students will grow up and major in one of our programs,” said  Adams. “We believe that this small gift can make a big impact.”


To watch the Denton ISD art teachers shop at Michaels, watch this