Teachers rewarded for creative projects

Bogue Sound Elementary School exceptional children’s teacher Lauren Daniel reacts to a surprise visit Wednesday from Bill Ward, community relations director for Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative, who presented her a Bright Ideas grant check for a writing project. (Cheryl Burke photo)

BROAD CREEK — Thirty-six teachers in Carteret and Craven counties received unexpected cash this week for classroom projects.

They are recipients of Bright Ideas grants to support innovative classroom projects.

Projects include a reading program to help raise books for tornado victims in Moore, Okla., a robotics project and the start-up of a radio station.

Bill Ward, community relations director for Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative, which sponsors the program, handed out more than $20,000 to help teachers make their projects possible.

As he has done the past 19 years, he surprises teachers in their classrooms by showing up with checks. Teachers are not informed ahead of time of their selection.

The program has been helping educators for almost 20 years. Teachers apply for the grants, and judges decide which projects will receive awards. Awards range from $50 to $1,000. This year there were 60 applicants.

This is an especially meaningful year for Mr. Ward because he’s retiring in January. He said he’s always amazed at the creativity of teachers’ projects.

“We had a teacher apply one year for Boots for Beaches so they could provide boots for students to clam as part of a science project. Then we had King Cluck where students learned how to embalm chickens as part of a study of Egypt,” he said as he handed out checks Wednesday at Broad Creek Middle School. From there he went to Bogue Sound Elementary, and planned to finish up the week today Down East.

 For teachers, especially during a tough budget time, the grants mean they can do innovative projects that otherwise would not be possible.

“I have such a desire to do innovative things with my students, but it’s difficult when you can’t even afford paper,” said Bogue Sound Elementary School second-grade teacher Marsha Sirkin, who received $676 to purchase a robot that students can use with class projects. “When I applied for a grant, I had to make a decision between the robot or a laptop.”

Bogue Sound Elementary first-grade teacher Callie Smith, along with a team of teachers, received $658 for a document camera to help with phonics projects. She, too, said without the grants many projects would not be possible.

“It’s awesome. It still shows that teachers have support from the community. It shows me to not give up because there’s money out there,” she said.

Many teachers, such as Bogue Sound Academically and Intellectually Gifted teacher Mindi Koczot, opted to use grants to purchase technology equipment. Ms. Koczot planned to purchase an iPad to assist with a stock market math project.

“This will enable them to watch the stocks go up and down and track the trends of buying and selling,” she said. “I am so grateful.”

At Broad Creek Middle School, a husband and wife both received grants for the first time at the same school.

Jamie Mercer, a computer skills and applications teacher, received $1,000 to start up an FM radio station for students.

“We’ll broadcast sports, classical and jazz music and cover other events. Many times parents can’t attend our games at 4 p.m. and this will enable them to keep up with what’s happening,” he said.

His wife Amy, an English language arts teacher, received $105 to assist students in writing and publishing books.

“I’m so excited. My students have wanted to write their own books because I’ve told them I’ve written books. I’m very humbled to get this grant,” she said.

Bogue Sound exceptional children’s teacher Lauren Daniel said she was especially grateful for her $782 grant to purchase laptops to help students with writing skills.

“Kids, it looks like we’re going to be able to get some laps,” she excitedly said as Mr. Ward walked into her classroom. “This is huge. I’m so excited.”

The Bright Ideas grant program is sponsored by CCEC, the Carteret-Craven Electric Foundation and the N.C. Association of Electric Cooperatives. In CCEC’s service territory alone, educators were awarded $23,316 for their innovative teaching projects. Other cooperatives in the state provided similar funding through the program.

The mission of the Bright Ideas program is to improve teaching in grades K-12 by awarding funds for projects that would not be funded otherwise. Since 1994, CCEC has provided close to $325,000 in grants for projects that have benefited some 67,200 students.

To learn more about this and other educational projects supported by CCEC, click the myCommunity link at www.carteretcravenelectric.coop.

This year’s Carteret winners and are:

•    Jyllian Williams, Beaufort Elementary School, “Blogging Firsties,” $816.

•    Dana Tucker, Beaufort Elementary School, “Engaging Education,” $700.

•    Terri Riley, Beaufort Elementary School, “A Star is Born, A U-STARS-PLUS,” $500.

•    Karen J. Davis, Beaufort Middle School, “Chromebooks for Science,” $800.

•    Marsha Sirkin, Bogue Sound Elementary School, “The Little Robot that Could,” $676.

•    Mindi Koczot, Bogue Sound Elementary School, “Show Me the Money!” $329.

•    Leigh Ann Padgett, Bogue Sound Elementary School, “Flipping for Third Grade,” $897.

•    Callie Smith, Bogue Sound Elementary School, “The WRITE Stuff,”  $658.

•    Lauren Daniel, Bogue Sound Elementary School, “I Know WRITE!” $781.

•    Susan Hodges, Broad Creek Middle School, “Go Get the AED!” $384.

•    Amy Smith Mercer, Broad Creek Middle School, “Budding Authors,” $105.

•    Jamie Mercer, Broad Creek Middle School, “Bulldog Broadcast Network,” $1,000.

•    Kayla Moore, Broad Creek Middle School, “Cultivating Minds Through STEM,” $548.

•    Jonathan Barnes, East Carteret High School, “Why am I Sweating?” $83.

•    Susan Taylor, Gramercy Christian School, “Lego Storm Troopers,” $350.

•    Miriam Sutton, Harkers Island Elementary School, “Diatoms! Diatoms! Wherefor Art Thou Diatoms?” $1,000.

•    Peter Carraway, Harkers Island Elementary School, “Fishing for Fitness,” $989.

•    Kathy Russell, Morehead City Middle School, “Read Across the Continents,” $178.

•    Amanda McCall, Morehead City Primary School, “Integration is What We Do,” $906.

•    Mary Willis, Morehead City Primary School, “Look, Think, Discover: Exploring Science,” $600.

•    Kimberly Livingston, Morehead City Primary School, “Music Technology,” $570.

•    Colin Long, Morehead City Primary School, “Physical Education Xbox Kinect,” $300.

•    Carlyn Cottrell, Morehead City Primary School, “Cool Common Core that Clicks,” $380.

•    Renee Gilpin, Morehead Elementary at Camp Glen, “Storming your Mind with Mindstorm Legos,” $500.

•    John Daniels, Newport Elementary School, “Mining for Learning; Crafting Future Leaders,” $376.

•    Wil Baxley, West Carteret High School, “Animal Science Experiential Learning Lab,” $1,000.

•    Katie Sherman, West Carteret High School, “Express Yourself,” $800.

•    Katie Salter, West Carteret High School, “Document Camera,” $300.

Havelock teachers who won include:

•    Karyn Suggs, Early College EAST, “The Science of Going Fast & Reaching New Heights,” $992.

•    Reba Schmidt, Havelock Elementary School, “Lego Literacy,” $810.

•    Kerri Bogue, Havelock High School, “MathXL for School Pitsco Lab,” $750.

•    Rosemary Steinman, Havelock Middle School, “Let's Go Scanning... in Math Class, That Is!” $1,000.

•    Naomi Clark, Havelock Middle School, “Read, Write, Create, Present: Integration of Social Studies & Literacy,” $1,000.

•    Gina Thornton, Tucker Creek Middle School, “All the Parts Equals a WHOLE,” $343.

•    Ashley Alicea, W.J. Gurganus Elementary School, “Nanos + Audiobooks = Happy Readers,” $925.

•    Ashley Perry, W.J. Gurganus Elementary School, “iRead + iListen = iLearn,” $966.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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