The College Football Playoff (CFP) and Cotton Bowl Foundation teamed up Tuesday to award $100,000 in grants to support of North Texas teachers and educators.
Two $50,000 checks prompted million-watt smiles as the Catch Up & Read and Urban Teachers organizations received the gifts in the school courtyard of Uplift Grand Preparatory School in Grand Prairie, Texas.
"It's been a very difficult year-and-a-half," Cotton Bowl chairman Bry Patton said. "Teachers have had to go through so much. They really are heroic in all the things they do - they educate, protect and provide some sort of normalcy to our children."
Watching the presentation was 6th-grade math teacher Christiane Crawford, who had no idea she was about to be recognized for her unshakable commitment to her students. Crawford's colleagues told her to "dress nice" because members of the CFP, Cotton Bowl Foundation and North Texas media would take photos of her classroom for promotion of the nationwide "Extra Yard for Teachers" platform - an annual week-long initiative which has collectively invested more than $47 million to support educators.
With her classroom of students watching in excitement, the CFP and Cotton Bowl foundations surprised Crawford in acknowledgement for her exceptional commitment to her students, school, and community. Crawford was awarded with a $500 gift card and tickets to the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
Invited to give an impromptu speech at the podium, Crawford was reluctant at first, before bringing the house down with applause.
"It is so much work to be a teacher," Crawford said. "You think every year it will get easier but every year almost get harder because you want to be a better version of yourself."
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"I've got 20-something kids staring at me and they are all going to grow up and change the world in a significant way. As an educator, you may not see all of the ripples that you make from your little toss in the pond, but just know that there are several and that those several go out and inspire another several. Because of you, the world got just a little bit better."
As pandemic challenges mount for educators, rare in-person moments like these are precious.
"Days like today make it real." said CFP Senior Director of Communications and Branding Brett Daniels. "A lot of times you see the large awards and big donations, which are obviously great, but the one-on-one interactions make it real. Here you have a teacher talking about her real-life experiences and how this contribution can make an impact on her and her 20 students. It brings it all home."
Which team will earn the title this season? Through two weeks of the college football season, Alabama remains the betting favorite. After beating the Ohio State Buckeyes, Oregon surged ahead of Texas A&M. The Aggies' odds to win it all have fallen to +6000 on FanDuel, after losing starting quarterback Haynes King to a lower leg injury in the first quarter vs. Colorado. King is expected to be out for an extended period after undergoing surgery Sunday to repair a broken tibia on his right leg.
The playoff semifinal game on New Year's Eve will be Crawford's first time at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. She utilizes coaching inspiration from the popular Friday Night Lights TV show in her mentoring and cannot wait to diplomatically "cheer on both teams" in the Cotton Bowl Classic.
Sept. 14 served as the CFP Foundation's "BIG DAY" - a national day of supporting and celebrating teachers to say "thank you" in many ways to deserving educators dedicated to helping our kids learn. A wildly successful campaign, last year's "Big Day" gifted approximately $4.3 million in grants, direct aid and desperately needed resources. This year, they hope to exceed that amount. Just like Crawford, always getting better.