New Teacher Welcome event coming up

Plenty of people turned out for the Teacher Welcome Event organized by the Odessa Chamber of Commerce at the Marriott Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. (Ruth Campbell | Odessa American)

Complete with plenty of swag, food and door prizes — among other things — the Odessa Chamber of Commerce’s New Teacher Welcome event is coming up July 31.

It will run from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and take up several ballrooms at the MCM Grande FunDome, 6201 Business I-20.

It started in 2014 at the request of then-Superintendent Tom Crowe who felt that a collaboration between the chamber, business community and the district to welcome new teacher hires to Odessa was a win-win.

Carla Hartwig, events and programs specialist at the chamber, said they ordered 300 gifts.

Hartwig said the event, which started out as a breakfast, is beneficial to the teachers and the business community.

“We have our members who have purchased booths to be there to talk about their product, their services and these are new teachers that they’re touching,” Hartwig said.

She added that these new people are going to be looking for dentists, insurance agents and entertainment for their families.

“You’re new to town; you need to know what you need to know; all the ins and outs of who is who and what is what, so it’s beneficial for them as well — the Chamber members — because they get potentially new business, new clients, from these new teachers. And then it’s just our way of giving back helping the district as we welcome these new people into town. We want to be as welcoming as we can arms wide open. That was something that Thomas Crowe, when Mike George was still president and CEO (of the chamber), he’s the one that came to Mike. … Mike just said, well, that’s a win-win for us and our members. That’s why we started doing it and it’s been very successful. It’s grown exponentially. Every year, we probably get one or two more booths. We definitely ran out of room at Barn G. We were busting at the seams as it was pre-COVID. Talks were already in the works of where can we move after Barn G because it’s just getting so big, which is a good thing,” Hartwig said.

This year, there will be 52 vendor booths and last year there were 50, she added.

The chamber’s core sponsors, which are its Platinum Sponsors, sponsor every chamber scheduled chamber event.

“So we walk in with 26 sponsors already on the books and then we just market it from there to get the rest of them,” Hartwig said.

Typically, Superintendent Scott Muri welcomes everyone. There will likely be an ECISD board member who speaks and Hartwig said she is working to get another elected official to attend.

Chamber President and CEO Renee Earls will speak and Chamber Chair Grayson Hankins.

From the initial conversation with ECISD in February, it took about six months to organize the welcome event.

“We’re still taking sponsors as they come in … It’s a good five, six-month process, just from the initial conversation to day of,” Hartwig said.

Along with their goodies, teachers will get “heavy hors d’oeuvres,” tea and lemonade.

“There are going to be door prizes,” Hartwig said.

Most of the vendors donate door prizes, so there will be drawings throughout the two-hour event.

“Usually we save a big one for last. That can either be a $250 or $500 gift card to be used to purchase supplies for your room, that sort of thing. None of them walk away empty handed. We bought rolling carts this year like the kind that you get from the Office Depot, a little cube cart,” Hartwig said.

“That’s their gift this year. That is all thanks to Chevron. Chevron totally underwrote this gift and they have since day one. Chevron has been the presenting sponsor since 2014. Their support is what has helped us build this year to year. But this year, we increased our ask and they didn’t bat an eye because they’re all about education. … That’s one sector of our community that they really support,” she added.

Complex Community Federal Credit Union has been one of the biggest sponsors of the event since it was in Barn G. They always served coffee for the morning event, but since this is afternoon, they will be offering tea and lemonade.

There also will be a welcome committee, probably including Muri’s top executives and some members of the board of directors welcoming teachers as they walk in. They will be holding signs with encouraging messages.

Hartwig said she’s working to get cheerleaders and/or mascots from some of the schools, but it’s still summertime so school hasn’t started yet.

“It’s a good event. We get a lot of feedback. We get thank-you cards from the campuses, from individual teachers themselves. Every year we received praise and we’re not doing it for the praise. We’re doing it for them. We want them to feel welcome to Odessa because without them, where would our kiddos be? We need these teachers. I know everybody is feeling the pinch of not having enough teachers in their district, so we just want to make sure the ones that we get, they’re happy when they get here and we keep them happy; just make them feel welcome,” Hartwig said.