It was a typical day for Gainesville High School special education teacher Robert Horne this past May, when he went to a local store and purchased a case of fruit drinks for his students.
Just a few minutes later, Horne found himself the winner of $3,000.
What happened next was a cascade of events, all stemming from Horne’s desire to use that money for the betterment of his students. He decided to buy iPads with his winnings, rather than use the money for personal reasons.
After hearing this, the drink company stepped in.
“He then took the $3,000 to buy iPads (for his students),” said Tim Barr, vice president of marketing for Little Hug Fruit Barrels and American Beverage Co. “We said, well, we’ll buy the iPads for the students, and we gave him his $3,000 as well.”
The original $3,000 was not enough to buy iPads for all of Horne’s 20 students, so the company reimbursed Horne for the tablets he had already purchased, and then bought additional tablets so each student would have an iPad.
The company presented the iPads to the school Tuesday.
Jimmie Minor, director of special education, said the iPads would help the special education students communicate easier.
“The students love technology,” she said. “Being able to use an iPad and point to something ... there are so many apps on there where they can point and say and (form a) sentence. They can very quickly learn what those sentences mean, so they can end up literally putting a paragraph together.”
She said that Horne bought a personal iPad a year or so ago, and quickly began using it as another tool for his students.
“If the kids weren’t busy doing something, he’d slide the iPad to them and give them something to work on,” she said. “It might be in math, it might be in English. It was always something that the student could work with, and learn from.
“This could open up doors for kids that we didn’t even know were there,” Minor added.
“I think the beauty of an iPad, it has so much ... but it’s small size,” Barr said. “And the absolute convenience and portability, I think especially with his students, it really will make a big difference. It will make it easier to teach and learn.”
The school also received a $200 gift card from Walmart, and the Little Hug company provided coupons for free fruit drinks for a year for each special education student.
High school principal LaCrisia Larkin said that Horne, who has been with the school system for six years, is a teacher who goes the extra mile for his students.
“He makes sure that they are comfortable in his class,” Larkin said. “He does everything possible in communicating their needs with their other teachers.”
Shortly after winning the $3,000, Horne was diagnosed with cancer. While he was unable to attend the Tuesday presentation, Minor said Horne expects to be back in the classroom when classes begin Monday.
“Mr. Horne’s dedicated,” she said. “He loves the kids. He works very hard to try to find things for them to do on their level.”