BrightIdeas

Bright Ideas has funded 10,400 education grants in N.C.
Will yours be next?



At North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, we believe there is no more important investment than in our state’s youth. That’s why for more than 20 years, the electric co-ops have offered Bright Ideas education grants to Tar Heel teachers in K-12 classrooms across the state.

Bright Ideas grants provide funding for innovative, classroom-based projects that would otherwise not be possible. Since 1994, we have touched the lives of more than 2.1 million students who have participated in 10,400 Bright Ideas projects, and given out more than $10.9 million. Each year, close to 600 grants are funded across the state.



Tar Heel Teacher of the Week
Congratulations to our Bright Ideas Tar Heel Teachers of the Week for the month of November!

Every year, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives contribute about $600,000 to N.C. educators through our Bright Ideas Education Grant program. Now, the co-ops are recognizing 25 of the most outstanding grant winners in the state for their hard work and positive impact on students.
Susan Jinks

Susan Jinks
New Century Middle
Cameron, N.C.

Lucky students in Moore County are using a special printer to go from 2D to 3D design, thanks to a standout educator sponsored by Central Electric. Susan Jinks’ Bright Ideas project is called “From Design to Reality.” The purpose of her grant is to help students learn how to model designs using 3D software and then actually print their 3D designs to make them a reality.

Dr. Jinks and her project will be recognized November 23 during the radio broadcast of the UNC vs Portland basketball game.





Melanie Spell

Melanie Spell
Hobbton Elementary
Newton Grove, N.C.

South River Electric Membership Corporation’s exceptional educator is bringing the community together to create an interest in literature for her students. Mrs. Melanie Spell’s Bright Ideas grant project, “Leaders Make Great Readers,” promotes reading by inviting leaders in the community to visit her classroom and read to her students. Each leader will read a book related to their leadership role. Those books will then be available for the students to read in the library. Spell wants to show her students that reading is a vital skill in everyday life and imperative in the work force.

Mrs. Spell and her project will be recognized November 9 during the radio broadcast of the UNC vs Pittsburgh football game.
Alicia Swackhamer

Alicia Swackhamer
Forest Hills High
Marshville, N.C.

Union Power Cooperative is proud to sponsor Ms. Alicia Swackhamer as their Tar Heel Teacher of the Week. Swackhamer’s Bright Ideas project will benefit not only her students, but also pediatric patients at local hospitals. “Razzle Dazzle Rehab” allows students to design and paint inspirational works of art on bookshelves and rocking chairs placed in the hospitals’ play rooms. Swackhamer’s altruistic and education project gets students thinking creatively about design while also reinforcing the importance of community involvement and civic responsibility.

Ms. Swackhamer and her project will be recognized November 25 during the radio broadcast of the UNC vs NC State football game.
Elaine Reales

Elaine Reales
Bruce H. Tharrington Elementary
Mount Airy, N.C.

A Surry County teacher is bringing historic figures to life thanks to her Bright Ideas Grant sponsored by Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation. Mrs. Elaine Reales’ project, “Erase una vez… A Time in History,” uses Chromebooks and voice amplifiers to create a living wax museum in her classroom. From Rosa Parks to Andy Griffith to George Washington, Reales is using technology to spur interest in non-fiction literature and social studies.

Mrs. Reales and her project will be recognized November 18 during the radio broadcast of the UNC vs Western Carolina football game.




Chris Sprayberry

Chris Sprayberry
Central Davidson Middle
Lexington, N.C.

EnergyUnited recognizes Chris Sprayberry as a creative educator and Bright Ideas grant winner. Mr. Sprayberry and his Bright Ideas project, “Turning 2D Lessons into 3D Experiences,” is using virtual reality technology to get his students actively engaged in a variety of subjects. The virtual reality headset allows students to explore places they normally can’t go to like Mars or inside the human body.

Mr. Sprayberry and his project will be recognized November 24 & 26 during the radio broadcast of the UNC vs Arkansas and UNC vs Oklahoma basketball games.
Chelsea Ash

Chelsea Ash
Heide Trask High School
Rocky Point, N.C.

Four County Electric Membership Corporation proudly recognizes Chelsea Ash as their Tar Heel Teacher of the Week. Her project, “Simple Science,” encourages her students to think out of the box while using STEM skills. Her students must build a working machine using a limited amount or resources, forcing them to think creatively while using science and math to construct the machine.

Mrs. Ash and her project will be recognized November 29 during the radio broadcast of the UNC vs Michigan basketball game.

Blue Ridge Energy

Emily Green
Green Valley Elementary
Boone, N.C.

Blue Ridge Energy is proud to recognize Emily Green for her Bright Ideas project that brings robotics into the classroom. Green saw increased interest in STEM at her school and wanted to provide materials to keep her students engaged and allow them to practice skills that will serve them in the future. Her project, “Fueling Interest to Create 21st Century Learners,” uses LEGO robots to provide a hands-on approach to coding and computer programming.

Mrs. Green and her project will be recognized November 10 & 15 during the radio broadcasts of the UNC vs Northern Iowa and UNC vs Bucknell basketball games.


Tar Heel Teacher of the Week nominees are invited to a special recognition event at a Tar Heel Football game and receive a plaque commemorating their achievements.

North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives make possible the Tar Heel Teacher of the Week and Bright Ideas education grant programs in support of education and local communities. Only 25 exceptional North Carolina teachers will be honored as Teachers of the Week this year.

Once again, congratulations to all of the Tar Heel Teachers of the Week for the month of November.

Will your project be next?

The application process kicks off in April and lasts through September. Final application deadlines can vary, depending on the sponsoring co-op in your area.

Grant Winners from Randolph EMC

Educators may apply as individuals or as a team for the grants, which are awarded in a competitive evaluation process by individual electric cooperatives throughout the state.

North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives are committed to the communities they serve. Find out more about North Carolina's electric cooperatives and the cooperatives’ community programs we support.






Bright Ideas recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. See how Bright Ideas impacted teachers and students by watching our celebration video!