A herb garden for chickens, virtual reality goggles, hand bells, tickets to a musical about STEM, CPR mannequins, a sound board, Legos, kitchen mixers, whisper phones, boomwhackers, stereoscopes.
That’s just part of the wish list fulfilled for LCPS teachers on Monday when the Prize Patrol of the Lenoir County Education Foundation crisscrossed the county to surprise winners of Education Foundation mini-grants with checks, balloons and appropriate hoopla.
In all, the Education Foundation visited 13 schools, presenting grant awards worth more than $15,500 to 40 teachers who had written the 36 winning grants.
“It’s our biggest year ever – most money, most grants, most schools and most applications,” said Laura Lee Sylvester, executive director of the Education Foundation and president of the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce, the foundation’s parent organization.
About 130 grant requests were submitted by LCPS teachers. “It was a very competitive process,” Sylvester said. “The winners should feel good about their success because it wasn’t easy.”
For one of the winners, Aaron Murdock of Northeast Elementary School, the Prize Patrol didn’t show up a minute too soon. “I’ve written other grants, but this is the first one I’ve won,” Murdock said. “I’m excited. It puts me in the company of some great teachers.”
Murdock will use the $450 in grant funds to buy Legos for Northeast students to use in math classes as visual aids. “Math is an abstract concept and I think having something concrete like Legos to work with helps them understand it better,” he said.
Brittany Harrison, who directs the STEM lab at Frink Middle School, will use her $500 grant winnings to bring a touring group to La Grange to perform “a musical about STEM” for students from Frink and other schools.
Mini-grants are capped at $500. More teachers were grant winners than there were grants awarded because some submitted their grant proposal as a team. Lindsay Howard and Sarah Hughes of Moss Hill Elementary teamed up to win $490.99 to buy stereoscopes for use by their kindergarten students. The stereoscopes, which create a 3D picture from a two dimensional slide, will be put to work in science class, giving students a detailed look at plants, birds, insects and other aspects of nature.
From math to music, from reading to resuscitation, the mini-grants will allow the 40 winning teachers to acquire teaching tools they knew they needed but weren’t sure how they could get. David Miles, the music teacher at La Grange Elementary, will use his $200 to buy boomwhackers, hollow tubes that, when used as percussion instruments, render different tones depending on their size.
A $169 grant will allow Melody Vogt to teach reading to her first graders at Moss Hill Elementary with whisper phones, an ingenious telephone-like device that allows students to practice reading aloud by whispering into the transmitter end and hearing themselves through the receiver end.
“I have a sound board of my own that we use,” said Woodington Middle School music teacher Zachary Wills after the Prize Patrol interrupted band rehearsal, “but this ($500 grant) will let the school have one of its own.”
The mini-grant program is supported primarily through fundraising events organized by the Education Foundation and Chamber of Commerce, including the Adult Spelling Bee held in November and the annual Lenoir County Education Foundation Golf Tournament in September.
Winning teachers in this mini-grant cycle, along with their school and the value of the grant, were:
Banks Elementary School – Mary Beth Roberts ($500), Bobbi J. Arnette ($80) and Karyl Willis ($500); Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School – Melissa Manning ($319.54) and Nicolette Morgan ($430.08); E.B. Frink Middle School – Brittany Harrison ($500); La Grange Elementary School – David Miles ($200), Courtney Newberry ($315) and Deborah Casey ($500); Moss Hill Elementary School – Melody Vogt ($169.80), Lindsey Howard and Sarah Hughes ($490.99), Catherine Lynch (($479.66), Millicent Sanderson ($450) and Wesley Letchworth ($476.93).
Also, North Lenoir High School – Teresa Eason ($500); Northeast Elementary School – Aaron Murdock ($450.66); Northwest Elementary School – Samantha Waida ($500), Jessica Neal ($207) and the team of Alicia Stanley, Sydney McKinney, Rachel Hill and Shalona Newkirk ($500); Kinston High School – Vickie B. Wessell ($499.50); South Lenoir High School – Jessica Hill ($500) and Madison Zeagler ($500); Southwood Elementary School – Angie Jarman ($500); Woodington Middle School – Zachary Wills ($500).
Also, Pink Hill Elementary School – Jennifer McLawhorn ($4423.49), Jami Finch ($436.59), Selina Gray ($429), Myra Aycock ($500), Amy Taylor ($365), Jean Turner ($499.50), Katelyn Ball ($500), Walter Upthegrove ($399.98), Bena Miller ($500), Betsy Mercer ($500), Traci Howard ($442) and Claudia Rivera ($467.64).