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LCPS teachers dominate Bright Ideas grant competitions

Lenoir County Public Schools’ teachers won more than half of the 99 Bright Ideas grants awarded by Tri-County EMC on Monday night – a haul worth $45,762 – and five LCPS schools picked up an additional $500 each for having the most grant winners.

 Twelve teachers pose for a photo, six sitting on a brick wall and six standing behind.The value of the 58 grants awarded to LCPS teachers represents a gain against last year of about $3,000 and another dominant annual performance by the district against odds. The nine schools eligible in Lenoir County compete against 43 schools in Wayne and Duplin counties.

All nine schools had at least one grant winner and most had multiple winners; the five schools who scored the extra $500 each had at least eight winners.

Tri-County’s Bright Ideas grants are capped at $1,000 and are available to teachers in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th at all schools in the Dudley EMC’s service area. N.C. Electric Cooperatives also sponsors a statewide Bright Ideas grant program and the eight LCPS schools outside Tri-County’s service area are eligible to compete for those awards, capped at $1,500.

In that state competition, LCPS teachers won 21 grants. Those awards are scheduled to be presented at a luncheon in Raleigh on Nov. 19.

Photos of our Bright Ideas grant winners on Facebook

“Congratulations to our LCPS teachers and administrators for leading all educators in a three-county area for another year in the total number of Bright Ideas grants awarded through Tri-County EMC. I also want to thank our teachers and administrators for earning a record-setting number of state-level Bright Ideas grants for a fourth consecutive year,” LCPS Superintendent Brent Williams said.

Eight teachers pose for a photo, four sitting on a brick wall and four standing behind.“Teachers’ great work in seeking additional funding to support the processes of teaching and learning would always be commendable. During this time of continued pandemic and recovery, however, these accomplishments are especially impressive,” Williams added. “Our outstanding teachers continue to move forward with an inspiring level of determination to do all that they can to create additional resources for learning and even greater opportunities for the young people that we serve.”

Amy Taylor, an Exceptional Children’s teacher at Pink Hill, will use her grant of $975 to boost reading skills, focus on student health and encourage engagement with the community.

“The grant is called ‘Read More, Drink More, Do More’ for yourself and your community,” Taylor explained. “Our project will involve a book club for students with reading disabilities. We want to do three nighttime Zoom club meetings where students and their families learn about a new book. During that time, we will also share a new recipe and demonstrate how to make it. We’ll give students a healthy living challenge and ask them to join us in a service project right here in our community of Pink Hill.”

The 12 grants won by Pink Hill Elementary teachers – valued at $10,245 – paced the Tri-County competition.

Literacy-related projects and those involving technology were favorites of grant applicants, but overall the winning entries demonstrated the range of teachers’ interests, from the arts to the environment, and their innovative approaches to getting lessons across.

Ashley Joyner, an English teacher at South Lenoir High School, plans to spend her $484 grant winnings on supplies to create a puppet theater. “Students need a more engaging way to learn literature, so with my grant, I plan to use puppets, backdrops and lots of props to bring literature to life by creating the different scenery and characters and acting stories out in front of them on a puppet stage,” Joyner said.

Ryan Gardner, the Science Department chair at South Lenoir, called his grant application “Good to the Last Drop.” His $958 award will buy water testing kits so Gardner’s students can evaluate multiple water sources to determine water quality in the region.

In all, South Lenoir teachers won 10 grants, a record for the school in Tri-County competition.

Contentnea-Savannah K-8 also had a best-ever year, with teachers winning nine grants in the statewide competition sponsored by N.C. Electric Cooperatives. The school was among the top grant winners in the state in 2020 with eight awards.

Four Kinston High School teachers shared in three grants. The team of Vickie Wessell and Cory Buie will use their grant award to add more models of ecosystems to the collection in Wessell’s ninth grade earth science honors class. “These new ecosystems will enable students to compare the animal and plant life of a rainforest and desert ecosystem while studying many Earth and Environmental Science concepts,” she said.

LCPS teachers have steadily increased their winnings in regional and state Bright Ideas competitions as grant writing has become a point of emphasis under Superintendent Williams. The 2021 total of 79 grants is two more than last year and 10 more than in 2019.

“I want to thank Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation and General Manager J. Mike Davis and the members of his team, the TCEMC Board of Directors and the statewide organization, N.C. Electric Cooperatives, for their continued support and willingness to invest in our school system and our daily educational mission,” Williams said. “Their advocacy and sustained support continue to make each step of our united educational journey even more successful.” 

Tri-County grant winners by school are:

Banks Elementary – Britni Davis ($504) and Bobbi Colie ($221)

EB Frink Middle – Jonathan Smith ($779) and Lauran Smith ($997)

La Grange Elementary – Alicia Davis ($978), Caroline Casey ($1,000), Deborah Anderson ($1,000), Jaime Moore ($300), Jessica Miller ($599), Katherine Sowers ($854), Lisa Davis ($980), Sarah Winnie ($1,000) and the team of Tammy Boyette and Davida Sutton ($453)

Early College High School – Dr. Travis Towne ($1,000)

Moss Hill Elementary – Casey Carlson ($590), Glenda Kennedy ($423), Hollie Ayers ($999), Joey Gray ($792) and Kristina Jones ($484)

North Lenoir High – Harley Smith ($999), Kim Hipkiss ($1,000), Ashley Holland ($997), Michael Lewis ($455), Rebecca Hawkins ($986), Samantha Newcomb ($1,000), Kady Long ($988) and Jennifer Ginn ($867)

Pink Hill Elementary – Amy Taylor ($975), Betsy Mercer ($978), Brenda Griffin ($908), Chris Radford ($1,000), Helen Lewis ($436), Jami Finch ($869), Jennifer Grubbs ($922), Jennifer McLawhorn ($849), Julie Rouse ($1,000), Kelly Bluhm ($509), Myra Aycock ($990) and Selina Gray ($810)

South Lenoir High – Jodi Maxey ($560), Jessica Hill ($671), Heaven Tyndall ($330), Ashley Joyner ($484), Margo Harper ($969), Melanie Smith ($1,000), Ashley Turnage ($690), Ryan Gardner ($958), Sarah York ($682) and Tiffanie Chase ($998)

Woodington Middle – Jessica Jones ($1,000), Jessica Montgomery ($480), Mari Hatcher ($991), Julie Adams ($998), John Morgan ($989), Ty Kennedy ($1,000), Megan Rager ($480) and Melissa Perritt ($991)

Winners by school of state-level grants from N.C. Electric Cooperatives are:

Contentnea-Savannah K-8 – Kameron Watson, Robert Houston, April Modlin, Taylor Pope, Shariden Lord, Luis Rubio, Briana Rogers, Charity Taylor, Nichole Hathaway and Susan Powell

Kinston High –Vickie Wessell and Cory Buie (team), Amy White and Crystall Payton-Demry

Lenoir County Learning Academy – Elizabeth Moon and Katie McRae

Northeast Elementary – Cheryl McLain

Northwest Elementary – Rachel Hill and Kaitlyn Stroud

Rochelle Middle – Hannah Jimenez and Brenda Moultrie (team) and Tracie Dixon

Southwood Elementary – Angie Jarman

Photo captions (from top):

Pink Hill Elementary paced the parade of Bright Ideas grant winners from Lenoir County Public Schools in regional competition sponsored by Tri-County EMC of Dudley and statewide competition sponsored by N.C. Electric Cooperatives. Winning teachers from Pink Hill are, from left, front, Myra Aycock, Jennifer Grubbs, Helen Lewis, Kelly Bluhm, Chris Radford and Jami Finch; rear, Brenda Griffin, Jennifer McLawhorn, Julie Rouse, Amy Taylor, Selina Gray and Betsy Mercer.

Teachers at Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School won nine state-level Bright Ideas grants awarded by N.C. Electric Cooperatives. Winners are, from left, front, Nichole Hathaway, Robert Houston, Luis Rubio and Briana Rogers; back, Kameron Watson, Shariden Lord, Charity Taylor and April Modlin. Not pictured are Taylor Pope and Susan Powell.