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District dominates Tri-County Bright Ideas grant awards

The grant request Helen Lewis wrote for the 2019 Tri-County EMC Bright Idea competition had the right language, a clear learning goal for her first-grade students and a creative twist on language arts instruction, but the element that she thinks made hers one of the top-rated grants awarded Thursday night was this:

Heart.

The Pink Hill Elementary School teacher’s winning submission – “Adopt a Senior” – will give her class $450 for supplies to begin a running correspondence with residents of a local home for senior citizens. Her effort at community outreach clicked with the judges and with the grant competition’s long-time sponsor, Tri-County Electric Membership Corp.

Female teacher, seated, talks to first grade students seated on class carpet. “They are thinking about reaching out to the community. That was a big emphasis last night,” she said, referring to the banquet Tri-County hosted in Dudley for grant winners from Lenoir, Wayne and Duplin counties. “But I think the judges needed to see there is heart behind the idea. We’re not just teaching content, we’re working with people, our students.”

Lewis’s proposal was rated No. 2 among the five top grants singled out for special praise and the 100 awarded. A grant submission by Kim Hipkiss, a health science teacher at North Lenoir High School, was rated No. 3. Those honors were just the highlights of a night dominated by LCPS teachers. Of the 100 grants funded, 45 went to teachers from the district – even though the nine schools eligible in Lenoir County compete against 43 schools in Wayne and Duplin counties.

“I want to congratulate our LCPS teachers and administrators for leading all educators in a three-county area for the total number of Bright Ideas mini-grants awarded through our local electric cooperative, Tri-County EMC, in Dudley,” Superintendent Brent Williams said. “I am very proud of our teachers and administrators for displaying such strong initiative in earning an unprecedented number of mini-grants this year.”

Bright Ideas grants are capped at $1,000 each and are available to teachers in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th at schools in Tri-County’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. The statewide grant awards have not yet been announced.

A past Bright Ideas winner, Lewis said she’d had the concept of a grant proposal connecting writing instruction and the community for a while, but was moved to put the idea in motion after hearing from a series of nationally known educators at LCPS’s opening week professional development for teachers – a week built around the theme “Leveling Up.”

“We want to carry our slogan for the year, Leveling Up, into the community for others to see that we are trying to level up and be the best we can be at Pink Hill Elementary,” she said. “I thought this (grant idea) would be a perfect way to show we’re trying to mesh the school system with the community. We’re all stakeholders in education.”

Her grant award will pay for pens, markers, “all kinds of fancy paper and envelopes – all the things children like to use when they’re writing,” Lewis said. “Not only will they be sending correspondence back and forth but we’re trying to coordinate for them to actually have a party at the end of the year for their adopted seniors. This is going to be a year-round project.”

Tri-County Bright Ideas grant awards to LCPS teachers this year totaled $28,283.

“Our outstanding teachers continue to move forward with an inspiring and unyielding level of determination to do all that they can to create additional resources for learning and, in turn, even greater opportunities for the young people that we serve,” Superintendent Williams said.

“I want to thank Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation and all of the businesses and other community entities for their continued willingness to invest in our school system and our daily educational mission. Their advocacy and sustained support continue to make each step of our united educational journey even more successful.” 

LCPS winners by school and the amount of their awards were:

Banks Elementary – Heather Huggins (with kindergarten teammates Catherine Huff and Georgie Vick) ($250), Bobbi Colie ($80), Dawn Hill (with second-grade team of Jenifer Oliver, Olivia Parrish, Jessica Barber and Mary Beth Roberts) ($750), Regan Crowley ($500), Karyl Willis (with PE teacher Jordan Smith) ($1,000), Jessica Hinson ($670), Kimberly Smith (with fifth-grade teammate Madison Beyer) ($250) and Jennifer Jones (with teammate Ashley Hood) ($1,000)

E.B. Frink Middle – Chadwick Stokes ($776), Lauran Smith ($998), Sandy West ($975), Pamela Pate ($859) and Kristen Davenport ($992)

La Grange Elementary – Christel Perry ($900), Alicia Davis ($900), Katie Sowers ($996), Emily Daniels ($530), Jessica Stanley ($1,000), Lisa Davis ($995) and Jennifer Sutton ($995)

Lenoir County Early College High School -- Travis Towne ($1,000)

Moss Hill Elementary – Sharon Dellinger ($710), Molly Barwick ($607), Susan Barwick ($123), Donna Casad ($466), Marenda Everett and Rachel Braswell ($1,000) and Kristina Jones ($542)

North Lenoir High – Kim Hipkiss ($996), Lee Holder ($984) and Lynn Thaxton ($570)

Pink Hill Elementary – Amy Taylor ($958), Helen Lewis ($450), Jennifer McLawhorn ($398), Leigh Ann Hall ($597), Myra Aycock ($990), Johan Mari-Aviles ($997), Jennifer Grubbs ($1,000), Betsy Mercer ($969), Jami Finch ($628) and Walter Upthegrove ($820).

South Lenoir High – Ryan Gardner ($782), Sarah York ($963) and Heaven Tyndall ($935)

Woodington Middle – Traci Howard and Anna Rouse ($950) and Majesty McPhail and Sherry Sanderson ($750)

Photo caption:

Helen Lewis works with her first graders at Pink Hill Elementary School on Friday. Lewis’ grant proposal to create a running correspondence between her students and senior citizens in the area was rated No. 2 among the 100 Tri-County EMC Bright Ideas grants awarded Thursday night. Of those 100 grants, LCPS teachers won 45.