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Teachers win big in Tri-County grant competition

When Tri-County EMC presented its 2023 Bright Ideas grants last week LCPS teachers formed a long line. They had won more than half the grants awarded and more than half of the total dollars handed out.

Of the 117 winning grants announced during an awards celebration Nov. 6 in Dudley, LCPS teachers won 67. Of the $98,162 distributed by Tri-County this year, LCPS teachers collected $55,289. In a competition limited to schools within Tri-County’s service area, nine in Lenoir County are eligible, compared to 18 in Wayne and Duplin counties.

Nine high school teachers pose in two rows in front of a wall with a hawk painting.All nine LCPS schools won multiple grants and teachers at North Lenoir High School won the most of any school in the Tri-County competition with 10, which earned the school an additional $500.

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 presented later this month.

“I want to congratulate all of our Bright Ideas mini-grant winners for 2023-2024 for once again demonstrating a dominant performance,” Superintendent Brent Williams said. “Our teacher leaders continue to set a new standard for instructional excellence and innovation.  They continue to be a true blessing to our school system and to the young people that we serve.

“I want to thank Tri-County EMC General Manager, J. Michael Davis, his leadership team and the entire Tri-County board for their strong positive leadership and for continuing to invest in our school system, our staff members and our children,” Williams said.

Photos of school winners are on our Facebook page.

Thirty-five of the district’s 67 winning grants involved STEM projects, reflecting LCPS’s emphasize on instruction connected to science, technology, engineering and math.

North Lenoir ag mechanics teacher Molly Feezor will use her $1,000 grant award to provide students with the tools they need to create an “electricity board” on which to practice residential wiring, checking a box in the state’s required ag mechanics curriculum.

“This project will allow students the hands-on experience required to be proficient in wiring,” Feezor said. “Skills include wiring a light fixture controlled by a single-pole switch, wiring a light fixture controlled by a three-way switch, wiring a GFCI receptacle, wiring a 240-volt welder plug and receptacle, and correctly using a multimeter.”

At Woodington Middle School, students in Robert Houston’s STEM class will use dry erase grid boards and related tools that he’ll purchase with this $962 grant. “I am looking to get multiple items to assist students in the design and drawing portion of the engineering process,” Houston said. “My idea is to use dry erase grid boards to allow students the ability to make corrections without causing issues with their designs, and having to start over on a new sheet of paper. Also, once the grand design is figured out, they will be able to transfer that to the big whiteboard for the entire class to see and give ideas on.”

Banks Elementary STEAM teacher Gabby Ham won a $954 grant that she’ll use to integrate “coding, circuitry and robotics activities into our curriculum,” she said. “I aim to acquire coding kits, circuitry materials, and educational robots that will enable our students to engage in hands-on, interactive learning experiences. These activities will empower them to develop problem-solving skills, foster creativity and deepen their understanding of STEM concepts.”

Overall, LCPS’s winning entries demonstrated the range of teachers’ interests, from the arts to the environment, and their innovative approaches to getting lessons across.

South Lenoir High technology and leadership teacher Melanie Smith will invest her $1,000 grant winnings in a student-run business.

“Students will start their own coffee shop and develop their knowledge of all the aspects that come with owning their own business,” Smith said. “This will be a hands-on, interactive project-based addition to the standard curriculum that will allow students to simulate a real-world environment. As the proof of learning, they will complete a portfolio to showcase their work. Lessons will include the five functions of management, management responsibilities, compensation packages, leadership and marketing their products.”

Amy Taylor, an exceptional children’s teacher at Pink Hill Elementary, won a $998 grant “to encourage students to read more and promote a sense of kindness in our school and our community,” she said.

“Our project will involve a weekly book club for students with reading disabilities. We want to purchase and read books that discuss ways that people show kindness and keep their communities safe. We’ll take the things we learn from the stories we read about helping others and promote these ideas in our school and the Pink Hill community. We also want to spotlight occupations where people are everyday heroes in our community.”

Bright Ideas grant winners by school are:

Banks Elementary – Weil Sawyer, Deanna Morris, Alyssa Citero, Bobbi Colie, Catherine Huff, Gabriella Ham, Jennifer Jones, the EC team of Toinette Lewis and Keeda Darden and the fifth-grade team of Kimberly Smith, Danielle Jernigan, Megan O'Neal and Karyl Willis

EB Frink Middle School – Marian Holloway, Jonathan Smith, Vicky Newberry, Chadwick Stokes, Nicole Perkins, Kaitlyn Sadowski-Peele, Samantha Hawkins, Danneka Sutton and Ruth Anderson

La Grange Elementary – Alicia Davis, Jessica Stanley, Katherine Sowers, Davida Sutton, Kelsey Turner, Stephanie Davis and Crystal Taylor

Lenoir County Early College High School – Porsha Bell and Dr. Travis Towne

Moss Hill Elementary – Kristina Jones, Glenda Kennedy, Lara Colie, Catherine Lynch, the kindergarten team of Lindsay Howard, Casey Carlson, Sarah Hughes and Irish Williams and the third-grade team of Rachel Braswell, Amber Davis, Joey Gray and Allyson Heath

North Lenoir High – Rebecca Hawkins, Molly Feezor, Mara Rozzi, Sarah Casey, Kayla Lane-Varnell, Elizabeth Espino, Harley Smith, Ashley Holland, Katherine Long and the English instructional team of Nineva Angel, Michelle Taylor and Kelley Black

Pink Hill Elementary – Walter Upthegrove, Breanna Tyndall, Brenda Griffin, Amy Taylor, Julie Rouse, Katie-Beth Hill, Megan Lawson and Myra Aycock

South Lenoir High – Jessica Campbell, Anthony Sumner, Jessica Hill, Melanie Smith, Nicole Fulcher, Ryan Gardner, and Jessi Kennedy

Woodington Middle – Melodie Salley, Bryan Potter, Traci Howard, Jawanda Waters, Monica Johnson, Caroline Suddreth, Robert Houston and Steven Loftin

Photo caption:

In an impressive showing by LCPS teachers in competition for 2023 Bright Ideas grants from Tri-County EMC, teachers from North Lenoir High School impressed the most, winning 10 grants and the $500 bonus that goes to the school with the most grant awards.