• Bryanne Guzman: $1,481, Math Manipulatives
• Marti Stephens: $1,602, Cool Cats Character Education
• Ruby Roberts: $1,820, Interactive Science Laboratory
• Stefanie Kelly: $1,396, Bugtastic
• Pamela Scott: $1,399, Champions of American Liberty
• Joy McCook: $2,000, Georgia SMORE
• Maria Reed: $2,000, Augmented Reality
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Lyman Hall Elementary teacher Stefanie Kelly got quite a surprise during her planning period Thursday morning when the school’s principal led a team of people carrying balloons and cameras into her classroom.
“You’ve made my day!” she exclaimed. “I don’t think I’ve ever won anything before — this is like Publisher’s Clearing House.”
Kelly was one of seven Liberty County educators to receive a Bright Ideas grant from Coastal Electric Cooperative this year.
Kelly will use the $1,396 grant to launch an original program called Bugtastic, aimed to engage her special-education students by arming them with disposable cameras and connecting them with pen pals around the country, she said. They’ll learn about bugs both in our region and in other states by sharing with partner classrooms.
“As a special-education teacher … some days I just want to give up, so to have something like this is so inspirational,” she said, holding back tears.
More than 40 applicants in Liberty, Bryan and McIntosh counties applied for the grants, according to CEO Whit Hollowell. Thirteen applicants received awards, with four in Bryan County and two in McIntosh.
“We’ve found over the years that teachers are strapped for funds just like everybody else, and to be able to give them a little bit extra so they can find something to help spark educational interest in their students is very important,” Hollowell said.
Jason Rogers, LCSS assistant superintendent for administrative services, said individual schools decide how to allocate their own instructional funds, but that state and federal education funds often have restrictions on how they can be spent.
Instructional funds have to be spent directly on student instruction and are subject to Department of Education approval on how the schools plan to use them, he said.
“We are privileged to work in a great school system where so many of our teachers and employees continually go above and beyond the call of duty,” he said when asked about teachers spending personal funds on their classes. “Our district as a whole benefits greatly from their devotion.”
Since Coastal Electric’s Bright Ideas was launched in 2002, more than $150,000 has been awarded to kindergarten to 12th-grade teachers.
Hollowell brought the program with him from a North Carolina cooperative when he came to the company in 2000, and at least 10 other co-ops in the state have launched their own versions since, the CEO said.
Three teachers at Waldo Pafford Elementary were awarded grants.
Students in Bryanne Guzman’s mathematics lab clapped and cheered when she received a $1,481 award to engage the entire school’s students in various math initiatives.
“I’ve been borrowing things from other teachers,” she said. “This is so important to keep kids involved.”
Assistant principal Marti Stephens received $1,602 toward a school-wide character-education and anti-bullying program called Cool Cats that will offer assemblies, guest speakers and awards for students seen doing positive deeds.
The school’s entire first grade will have access to an interactive science laboratory thanks to a $1,820 grant to teacher Ruby Roberts, who said that some of the students struggled to learn from the textbooks alone.
At First Presbyterian Christian Academy, technology teacher Maria Reed beamed with excitement as she received her $2,000 grant for teaching and creating augmented reality, a project that will benefit each of the school’s 340 students.
“Have you ever watched a football game, and you see that on television they put lines on the football field to mark the first down, but they’re really not there?” Reed said. “Well, that’s an application for augmented reality.”
The school’s high school students will learn how to create augmented reality books for younger students to read and interact with, she said.
“Say our students are learning about butterflies — the butterflies would actually become 3D animated and come out of the book,” Reed added.
Jordye Bacon Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Pamela Scott received a $1,399 grant to engage third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students in lessons about American history and art through dialogue, music and puppetry.
“I taught social studies all year last year, so I thought about doing a production on the champions of liberty, all the different people in American history who promoted the freedoms — women, patriots, people who fought against slavery,” Scott said. “I got really into the people who took a chance, who had to stand up for liberty — they impressed me, and I wanted to share that with the students.”
Bradwell Institute oceanography teacher Joy McCook also received a $2,000 grant for an interstate research project that will compare trophic statuses in Alaska, Texas and Georgia.
Three assistant principals, John Ryan, Stephanie Woods and Roland Van Horn, accepted the award on McCook’s behalf because she and her class were out collecting water samples, they said.
“This will not only benefit her classes this year, this also will carry us through three to four years,” Ryan said.
Funding for the grants comes from Coastal Electric and donations by its electricity customers who opt in to Operation RoundUp, according to Mark Bolton, vice president of communications, marketing and economic development. With the program, participating customers’ bill totals are rounded up to the next dollar, and the change goes toward the foundation. Each participating customer contributes an average of $6 per year.