Leslie Heckmann had been feeling increasingly suspicious all day.
Even though she was entering her regularly scheduled music class at Rivera Elementary School in Denton, two walls were lined with camera operators, administrators, a boom operator and various other strangers.
Unbeknownst to her, the class was about to receive about $10,000 in musical instruments midway through Teacher Appreciation Week.
She began her lesson as normal. Her assembled class of first graders was sitting on plastic risers as she took her place in front of them.
As a warmup, Heckmann led the students through a sing-song call and response.
“Hel-lo, boys and girls!”
“Hel-lo, Miss-us Heck-mann!”
After a few rounds of that, followed by more carefully choreographed singing, she eventually had the kids arranged in a circle in the middle of the room.
She passed out a pair of rhythm sticks — wooden cylinders not unlike drumsticks — to each student in the circle, once again singing instructions to them.
“You take what you get, and you don’t throw a fit,” she sang. A few students were quick enough to sing along with her.
Hearkening back to a previous lesson, Heckmann asked if anybody remembered what an ostinato was.
“Over and over,” one student piped up, earning her share of kudos for describing a musical sequence that repeats continuously.
With sticks in hands, the pulse of dun, dun, clack ... dun, dun, clack beat through the room, as kids hit their sticks against the ground twice before striking them together in a pattern reminiscent of a particular song by the rock group Queen.
With the ostinato rhythm in place, Heckmann made the cue to begin singing. Suddenly, two dozen voices began on a repeating melody:
Naughty kitty cat.
You are very fat.
You have butter on your whiskers.
Naughty kitty cat.
Following a cue of her own, a woman wearing a matching powder blue shirt and hat entered the room. She walked past the cameras, around the children and right up to Heckmann.
“I recognize you,” Heckmann said with a smile as the mystery woman approached.
It was at this point that things finally fell into place for Heckmann. She said the story meant to explain why cameras were in her room kept changing, but she didn’t know what exactly to expect.
When she saw the uniformed stranger, she finally knew what was going on.
The woman told the cameras, as well as Heckmann and the children, that Rivera Elementary had nominated Heckmann to receive new equipment through the Helpful Honda program.
With tubanos and djembes in place, Heckmann enthusiastically led her students through their ostinato exercise again.
Kids hit the drums full force and clapped their hands louder than before. One student even took to jumping back and forth, leaning his drum at a 45-degree angle and striking it out of time, such was his excitement.