Supporting Our Educators
by Don HughesBy Don Hughes
We all know school budgets are tight, and each year teachers look for ways to make their resources go further. Bright Ideas grants from North Carolina’s electric cooperatives allow educators to purchase the tools and materials necessary to teach concepts and complete projects that may otherwise not be funded. What an incredible opportunity for educators! This allows them to think more creatively and dream a little bit bigger than they may have thought they could.
We’re all proud to support our educators whose hard work and enthusiasm impact the lives of so many young people across North Carolina. These teachers are dedicated to their students, and through these grants we’re honored to give something back to them. From the very first mini-grants awarded by Brunswick EMC back in 1993, the Bright Ideas grants program has made a real difference in classrooms. Now every electric co-op in North Carolina supports their teachers through this program.
Together, we have awarded more than $10.2 million in grant money, sponsoring more than 9,800 projects, reaching more than 2 million students in grades K–12. That is quite an impact.
A local teacher recently thanked BEMC for a Bright Ideas grant that helped her purchase a set of graphing calculators for her high school math classes. As the workplace demands increasing proficiency in all areas of knowledge, we know our educators count on us. There’s a true need to help all students understand what they are learning through real world examples, how the various disciplines relate to and impact each other, and how they can learn to solve problems.
Every electric co-op can name a long list of the kind of creative projects it helps fund through their Bright Ideas program. Here in Columbus County, one grant helped a science teacher bring an apiary — a collection of beehives — and bee education to her high school classroom. The decline in pollinators was having an adverse impact on her agricultural community, and she wanted her students to understand how and why. That sparked the entire school getting involved, and it grew to become a much broader project. The engineering class designed hives; in biology they discussed hive behavior and hierarchy; earth science used it to talk about air and water quality and pesticide use; and math classes used it to study geometric shapes. It is almost guaranteed that these students will remember those lessons long into the future.
One of the principles North Carolina’s electric co-ops operate under as cooperative businesses is “Commitment to Community.” We are grateful to have the opportunity to support our schools and the communities we serve. Bright Ideas grants are an important part of that commitment. And most importantly, we are grateful for the exceptional educators who want to teach in ways that will truly make a difference for their students — our next generation of leaders.