Kristin Swaggart is awarded a $100,000 educational grant.
PENDLETON, OR - An eastern Oregon teacher is one of very few teachers around the nation who made it to the finals of the Farmers Insurance Dream Big Teacher Challenge through Thank America's Teachers. The grand prize? $100,000.
It started as a typical Tuesday at Pendleton High School. It's the kind of town where everyone knows everyone.
"I knew her parents really well. I hadn't seen her in 20 years so she'd grown up quite a bit," said Craig Christianson who owns two Farmers Insurance offices. He's talking about 'Chef K' and these days just about everybody knows her.
"I was told there was an assembly for Pride Bucks which is our school spirit assembly and they completely surprised me! They called me out on the floor and I thought I was passing out t-shirts. I turned around and looked at the screen and my name was up there," said Culinary Arts Teacher Kristin Swaggart.
Farmers Insurance agents and other representatives surprised her with a very big check: a $100,000 grant which Swaggart will use to buy a food truck.
"We'll use it in the community to serve the homeless population. We'll use it to raise funds for other groups on campus, not just culinary arts. Teaching the kids how to run a small business and establish some work ethic and a little pride and motivation," said Swaggart who has already established some Pendleton pride just by entering the Dream Big Teacher Challenge.
"You know, in small towns it's kind of networked together in itself. Therefore, everybody in the community kind of got involved, everywhere you would go people were talking about it. Vote Kristen.com that was the whole thing and everybody got excited about it," said Christianson.
"I mean the food truck is a huge prize but as a teacher, especially high school, it's our job to inspire them and dreaming big and believing in themselves is really the message here," said Swaggart.
Her impromptu acceptance speech included some powerful words, as well.
"Look what we did together. Don't be afraid of your hopes and ideas. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you and then work hard to make it happen. Thank you," Swaggart said over a microphone to the student body.
The Farmers Insurance Dream Big Teacher Challenge was decided by online voters nationwide. Swaggart is one of just six winners in the $100,000 category and went up against teachers from places as large as Los Angeles.