Watauga and Avery Teachers Awarded Bright Ideas Grants

Last Updated on November 20, 2023 12:49 pm

Boone, North Carolina (November 20, 2023) – Exciting, hands-on learning projects are coming to seven local Watauga and Avery County classrooms thanks to $5,226 in Bright Ideas grants awarded recently by Blue Ridge Energy to local educators during a special luncheon celebration honoring winning teachers and their schools.

Bright Ideas is an academic grants program sponsored annually by Blue Ridge Energy. Bright Ideas grants help further traditional academic learning by funding innovative scholastic projects that go beyond available school funding.

To date, Blue Ridge Energy has awarded more than $619,000 in Bright Ideas classroom grants impacting over 114,000 local students and teachers. This year, the cooperative is funding winning grants totaling $25,578 to 21 classrooms in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Wilkes, and Avery counties.

Watauga and Avery County grant-winning teachers are:

Tyler Hagan of Cove Creek School for “Cove Creek Cultivation Culture.” The $778 grant allows students to bridge science, technology, engineering, and math with agriculture concepts to design, build, and manage a low-maintenance, sustainable food production and agroforestry system.

Carly Pugh of Cove Creek Elementary for “Social Studies through Stories.” The grant for $481 will enrich students' understanding of modern civilization and American history through historical fiction novels. 

Erin Thompson of Valle Crucis School for “Vertical Learning Surfaces.” This $376 grant will purchase vertical, non-permanent surfaces or ‘Wipebooks’ around the classroom to facilitate group discussions and collaboration.

Alex Miller of Green Valley School for “Indoor Hydroponic Growing System.”

The $899 grant will purchase a next-generation hydroponic growing system for the exceptional children's self-contained classroom.

Hope Mough of Bethel School for “Spikeball for All.” This $442 grant will purchase six Spikeball game sets for the physical education classes. Students will learn the rules, participate in class tournaments, and work cooperatively with teammates.

Monet Samuelson of Freedom Trail Elementary for “Bucket Drumming.” This $950 grant will introduce students to drumming without the cost of traditional drum sets. Students will improve their focus/attention, develop rhythmic movement, and improve fine/gross motor skills, mental speed, and hand/eye coordination.

Shannon Silver of Banner Elk Elementary for “Shake it Off!” This $1,300 grant will allow the school to host its first ‘Amazing Shake’ competition, which emphasizes manners, discipline, respect, and professional conduct. 

“Blue Ridge Energy supports our schools and teachers to build brighter futures for our communities,” said Tasha Rountree, director of community relations for Blue Ridge Energy. “I’m proud that Blue Ridge can help by funding creative classroom projects that bring innovative learning experiences to our students.”

Blue Ridge Energy is part of several North Carolina electric cooperatives providing Bright Ideas grants. Together, they have provided more than $15 million for over 14,200 classroom projects impacting over 2.5 million students in North Carolina.

Blue Ridge Energy is a member-owned electric cooperative serving some 78,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Avery, Alexander, and Wilkes counties. To learn more about the Bright Ideas grants program, visit or contact your local Blue Ridge Energy office.

(L to r): Shannon Silver and Molly Rhoades, Banner Elk Elementary; Tom Trexler, Blue Ridge Energy Board of Directors; Tyler Hagan and S. Sirrena Wiggins, Cove Creek School; Alex Miller, Green Valley School; Heidi Ragan, Watauga District Manager; Hope Mough, Bethel School; JB Lawrence, Assistant Secretary-Treasurer, Blue Ridge Energy Board of Directors; Erin Thompson, Valle Crucis School; Carly Pugh, Cove Creek School; and Monet Samuelson, Freedom Trail Elementary 

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