Hardy Elementary teacher wins $2,500 vacation from Virginia Lottery

Published 6:57 pm Friday, June 3, 2022

When Sabrina Kelly brought her fourth grade class to Hardy Elementary’s cafeteria at 11:50 a.m. on June 2, she had no idea what to expect.

She’d received an email the previous evening from Principal Shante Denson, stating only that there would be a special presentation at noon. Waiting for her in the cafeteria were the school’s other third and fourth grade teachers, who’d received the same email, and Frank Wagner, deputy director of the Virginia Lottery.

“Do you all remember filling out ‘thank a teacher’ postcards?” Wagner asked the gathered students.

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“Yes,” the classes collectively answered.

Students, parents and community members across Virginia had sent nearly 50,000 teachers thank-you notes written on physical or electronic cards the Lottery distributed the week of May 2-8, National Teacher Appreciation Week. Kelly’s name had been one of nearly 6,000 entered in a prize drawing via a special code found on the backs of their thank-you cards.

From those entries, Lottery personnel picked four as this year’s winners of a Virginia-themed $2,500 vacation — either a wine and brewery or health and wellness tour — and a gift card for technology or luggage.

“One of your teachers was one of those four,” Wagner told the students. “I’m here to tell Sabrina Kelly ….”

Wagner didn’t get to finish his sentence as the room erupted into cheers.

“It was a complete surprise,” said Kelly.

Denson had successfully kept Kelly’s status as one of this year’s winners a secret for an entire week. The only other person at Hardy who knew was Assistant Principal Laura Dewees.

“I couldn’t say anything,” Denson said.

The school itself will also receive $2,500 worth of school supplies from The Supply Room.

Prizes aside, Kelly is grateful to have received so many kind words from her students.

“Teachers, you know, that’s what we live for,” Kelly said. “We want our students to enjoy their time here; we want them to learn and grow.”

Each card included artwork by one of three Virginia K-12 students who’d won the Lottery’s 2022 “Thank a Teacher” art contest in January – and a unique web code they could enter for a chance to win a grand prize.

This year, the Lottery doubled the number of grand prizes from two to four, and included extra prizes courtesy of its business partners IGT and NeoPollard Interactive.

According to Wagner, the Lottery has turned over $11 billion since its inception to K-12 education. Last year alone netted $765 million for Virginia’s schools.