Four Richmond County Schools were recently awarded “Bright Ideas” grants by Pee Dee Electric Membership Corporation. Amy Tadlock of West Rockingham Elementary, Erin McNair of Ellerbe Middle School, Rachel Peters and Nikki Covington of Rockingham Middle School and Jeff Pressley and Megan Hall of Richmond Senior High School all received grants for creative ideas they developed to share with students in Richmond County. The teachers were honored at a luncheon on Dec. 5 at the Cole Auditorium, sponsored by Pee Dee Electric.
This year, grants were given to schools in Richmond, Scotland and Anson counties, and Richmond County was the recipient of five of the nine grants. The snowy theme of the luncheon reflected the idea that teachers are as unique as snowflakes.
During the ceremony, each teacher expressed their gratitude to Pee Dee Electric.
Peters and Covington spoke for Rockingham Middle School and its winning theme: “More than Rocket Science.” Peters said the school will use their $1,675 grant for supplies that will assist the “Bright Idea” she refers to as an out-of-class Science Olympiad program.
“This is our fourth year,” Peters said. “This year we have a lot of female students involved, so we’re excited about it … Last year our entire team qualified for state. We have asked for so many supplies because you build and break and build and break… Parents have stepped up in years past, but we’re really excited to have this.”
Peters added that the team plans to compete in March at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg.
Since its inception in 1994, the “Bright Ideas” grant program has donated more than $7.9 million for 7,700 projects benefiting 1.4 million students across our state. Pee Dee Electric Membership Corp. is one of 26 electric cooperatives in the state that sponsors the “Bright Ideas” program. The Pee Dee Electric Program is open to educators in Richmond, Scotland, Anson, Montgomery and Stanly counties.
Erin McNair, a music teacher at Ellerbe Middle School, received a $737 grant this year from the program. She said the funds will go toward a very special project centered around cooperative learning groups called “So Much More Than Noise.”
McNair told the story of how she worked to engage her music students through the learning groups, and had the idea that iPods would allow each student to hear their specific instrument in the grand scheme of a composition.
“Now in my cooperative learning groups I have iPod Shuffles,” she said. “It’s just a way to use something in my classroom that I already know works … and now (the students) will be able to listen to their parts. In essence, you’ve given me an opportunity to clone myself. The kids are very excited about it.
Jeff Pressley, who works with metals technology at Richmond Senior High School, said the grant program has helped the school in the past to reach a lot of students. This year, Pressley said the $2,000 grant will go toward the creation of UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, as part of a program called “Flying for our Future.”
Students will begin by designing and building the planes from scratch.
“They will be the pilot from the ground,” Pressley said, “but the point of reference will be like they’re flying the plane … we’re doing this to put something in these kids’ hands that will train them for future jobs.”
Pressley set the scene for a student potentially flying a plane from inside a room at Richmond Senior High School to Rockingham and back.
“It will be just like training a student to fly a real airplane,” he said.
Other projects include: Megan Hall of Richmond Senior High School accepted a $1,500 grant for what she called “OCS School-based Enterprise”, or occupational courses of study.
“This is where we focus more on preparing (students) for work than college,” she said. “To do that, we have to have a school-based enterprise.”
The courses involve a format where students must create products and market them.
When she took over the position, Hall said there were very limited funds available for the program.
“This year we have done a lot,” she said. “Kids have gotten really into it. With this grant, we’ll really be able to get this thing up and going.”
At West Rockingham Elementary School, Amy Tadlock has plans to start the “Essential Education Economy” effort. Tadlock is one of three teachers in the county that teaches AIG to lower grades. The program is designed to teach students about budgeting and managing money similar to a real-life situation with bills and bank deposits.
“Students can explore the economy and design their own money,” she said. “They’ll go online and look at foreign currency and have to convert it … then we’ll make them apply for jobs, learn the interview process, learn etiquette, and then perform the jobs and get paid.”
Once students are paid, however, they will learn to deposit their earnings and put them toward bills and other fees.
Pee Dee Electric Membership Corporation CEO and Executive Vice President Donnie Spivey expressed his pride in the effort and creativity of the selected schools.
“It’s impressive year to year to see the great things you all are doing in the schools,” he said. “We do appreciate your interest in the school system and bringing our kids along with these innovative ideas and enhancing their education.”