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LCPS teachers dominate Bright Ideas grant competition

Lenoir County Public School teachers dominated competition for 2022 Bright Ideas grants presented Thursday night by Tri-County EMC, winning nearly three-quarters of the grants and money awarded.

Of the 110 winning grants announced during an awards celebration in Dudley, LCPS teachers won 78. Of the $92,073 distributed by Tri-County this year, LCPS teachers collected $66,560. In a competition limited to schools within Tri-County’s service area, nine in Lenoir County are eligible, compared to 43 in Wayne and Duplin counties.

17 women and one man pose in 3 rows on risersAll nine LCPS schools won multiple grants and teachers at Pink Hill Elementary School won the most of any school in the Tri-County competition with 19. This year’s result represents a record haul – 20 more grants than in 2021 and near $21,000 more in award money.

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. The state awards are scheduled to be announced later this month.

“I want to congratulate our outstanding LCPS teachers for their record-setting results in the 2022-2023 Bright Ideas mini-grant competition,” Superintendent Brent Williams said. 
“Their outstanding work every day is on full display in their winning mini-grant entries and in once again leading all teachers in a three-county area for the total number of Bright Ideas mini-grants received this year. 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.”  

LCPS winners favored science- and technology-related projects, 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.

Samantha Newcomb, one of 13 winners at North Lenoir High School, plans to use her $1,000 award to create a course she calls “3D Organ Exploration,” designed to help her Health Science I students visualize organs in both diseased and normal states.

“This course will better enable students to recognize, study and disseminate the differences between normal organs and various diseased organs to students, community and long-term care clients,” Newcomb explained. “These students will have to interpret scenario-based problems about clients with normal and disease progress on organ and determine a course of action and treatment plan for the client.”

The $1,000 coming to Josh Wallace’s class at Woodington Middle School will be used to build and program robots. At Pink Hill Elementary, fifth-grade science teacher Betsy Mercer will use her $955 grant to teacher her students how to become “microscope detectives,” using the classroom’s microscopic lab to study nature at the cellular level. Stephanie Harrell, another North Lenoir High winner, will use drones purchased with her $925 grant award to teach the basics of flight.

South Lenoir High School art teacher Sheree Casias has more down-to-earth ambitions for her $998 grant award – buying silk screening equipment “so the art department can create a small business program and design their own T-shirts,” she said.

And Amy Taylor, an exceptional children’s teacher at Pink Hill, plans to encourage kindness with her $999 grant and a project she calls Camp Kindness.

“The plan is to purchase class sets of books that all have a focus on kindness or good deeds and how kindness is contagious,” she explained. “We will do weekly reading groups where we promote stories of kindness. We will pretend to be reading by the campfire – pull out our camp chairs, cut off the lights and close the blinds, get out our flashlights and read and discuss stories that talk about how kindness can change the world, one act at a time.” 
Students will also be undertaking random acts of kindness for their schoolmates and in the community during the school year, Taylor said.

“I want to thank Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation and General Manager, J. Mike Davis, the members of his team, and the TCEMC Board of Directors for their continued support and willingness to invest in our school system and our daily educational mission to do all that we can every day to help every student to learn, to grow and to thrive,” Williams said. “Their advocacy and sustained support continue to make each step of our united educational journey even more successful.” 

Bright Ideas grant winners by school are:

Banks Elementary – Heather Sloan, Weil Sawyer, Keeda Darden, Kimberly Smith and Sarah Rivers.

EB Frink Middle – Jason Smith, Latonia A. Best, Chadwick Stokes, Lauran Smith, Pauline Lindo, Jonathan Smith, Marian C. Holloway and Pamela Pate.

La Grange Elementary – Alicia L. Davis, Jessica Stanley, Sarah L. Winnie, Caroline Casey, Katherine T. Sowers and Georgia Tingen
Lenoir County Early College High School – Dr. Travis Towne and Porsha Bell

Moss Hill Elementary – Melissa Small; Glenda Kennedy; Kari Raccobaldo; Wesley T. Letchworth; the kindergarten team of Irish Williams, Casey Carlson, Lindsay Howard and Sara Hughes; the first-grade team of Melinda Judy, April Lee and Meredith Sanderson; the team of Lara Colie and Diane Seymour; the third-grade team of Rachel Braswell, Allyson Heath, Amber Davis and Jordan Gray; and the second-grade team of Sharon Dellinger, Cassidy Kennedy, Valerie Jones, Rachel Yarber

North Lenoir High – Katherine Long, Christy Burkett, Heather Kennedy, Michelle Taylor, Stephanie Harrell, Ashley Holland, Harley Smithy, Breonna Baker, Samantha Newcomb, Kim Hipkiss, Hope Mauney and Rebecca Hawkins

Pink Hill Elementary – Lindsey Marshburn, Madison Howard, Stephanie M. Kollock, Breanna Tyndall, Selina Gray, Branda Griffin, Sherri Grubbs, Amy Taylor, Brandy Hardin, Leigh Anne Hall, Megan Lawson, Jami Finch, Leyha Murphy, Jean Turner, Aaron Murdock, Julie Rouse, Betsy Mercer, Jennifer McLawhorn and Shanella Roberts

South Lenoir High – Timila Perry Lane, Margo Harper, Jodi Maxey, Melanie Smith, Ryan Gardner, Jessica Hill, Sheree Casias, Scott Radford, Guenevere Boney-McKinney and Sarah York 

Woodington Middle – Jessica Jones, Joshua Wallace, Julie Adams, Monica Johnson, Lauren Moore and Melissa Perritt

Photo caption:

Of the 78 grants won by LCPS teachers in the Bright Ideas competition sponsored by Tri-County EMC, 19 went to teachers from Pink Hill Elementary School – a school record within a record result for the school district. Pink Hill winners are, from left, front row, Betsy Mercer, Leigh Ann Hall, Brenda Griffin, Jennifer McLawhorn and Brandy Hardin; second row, Shanella Roberts, Jami Finch, Sherri Grubbs, Selina Gray, Julie Rouse, Stephanie Kollock and Amy Taylor; third row, Jean Turner, Madison Howard, Aaron Murdock, Lindsey Marshburn, Breanna Tyndall and Megan Lawson. (Not pictured: Leyha Murphy)