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Local teachers awarded $14,539 from Southern Rivers Energy

Local teachers awarded $14,539 from Southern Rivers Energy

Bright Ideas: Energizing Innovative Lessons


BARNESVILLE— Southern Rivers Energy (SRE) and the Southern Rivers Energy Trust, Inc. recently awarded $14,539 to local teachers to fund innovative lesson plans for students.

From a pool of 42 applicants, 18 teachers were surprised in their classrooms with gifts and checks ranging from $172 to nearly $1,000 by members of the Bright Ideas Brigade. This year, 10 different schools in Lamar, Monroe, Pike, Spalding and Upson received grants.

Southern Rivers Energy’s annual Bright Ideas program gives educators the opportunity to apply for special project funds, not often available in tightly budgeted school systems. Since the program’s inception in 2007, over $190,000 has been awarded to local teachers, giving them the power to put their creative teaching ideas into action.

Earlier in the year, certified teachers in grades Pre-K through 12 (public or private) in Bibb, Coweta, Crawford, Lamar, Meriwether, Monroe, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties were asked to submit proposals for classroom projects. Without knowing the names of schools or the teachers involved, three retired educators from Lamar and Upson counties rated requests according to creativity, uniqueness of experience, teamwork, goals and learning objectives, potential to benefit future students, and student involvement.

Teachers are encouraged to begin making plans now for 2020 project submissions. Applications will be available online at in April and must be completed before the beginning of September. The Bright Ideas Brigade will notify grant winners in October.

Bright Ideas is funded through SRE’s Operation Round Up® program where members volunteer to round up their monthly electric bill to the nearest dollar. The extra change collected from each participating member goes to the Southern Rivers Energy Trust, Inc. and is distributed by a volunteer board in the form of community and individual grants as well as Bright Ideas grants and scholarships for local students.


The 2019 Bright Ideas Grant winners:

Lamar County:

  • Madeline Bartlett, Rock Springs Christian Academy, $371.00, Pre-k STEM Friday, Pre-k
  • Rebecca Bowen, $968.12, Rock Springs Christian Academy, Project and Learn, 9-12th grade
  • Ingrid Dingler, $996.09, Rock Springs Christian Academy, Lightbulb Literacy Centers: Where Reading Sparks Imagination, Pre-K
  • Kim Watson, $583.49, Rock Springs Christian Academy,Bringing History to Life, 3rd grade

Monroe County:

  • Kimberly Driskell, $981.14, T.G. Scott Elementary, Compost: Feed the Soil, 3rd grade
  • Kimberlie Harris, $713.30, Monroe County Grifted Program (Samuel E. Hubbard), Eco Team to the Rescue: Saving the Bats of Georgia, 1st-5th grades
  • Elizabeth Holloway, $1,000, Mary Persons High School, Community Based Instruction, 9-12th grades
  • Misti Tonn, $719.34, T.G. Scott Elementary, “Rockin” around 3rd Grade, 3rd grade

Pike County:

  • Cathy Partain, $1,000.00, Pike County Ninth Grade Academy, Beginner Biblioteca, 9th grade
  • Clay Woerner, $940.00, Pike County Ninth Grade Academy, Path through the Woods with Plants and Trees, 9th grade (Trail open to K-12)

Spalding County:

  • Lynn Akin, $518.60, Spalding High School, May the Force(s) be with You, 9-12th grades
  • Jhondee Barnes, $999.99, Griffin Spalding Program Challenge, Oh, the Places We Can Go and the Things that We can See!, K-5
  • Cody Helms, $807.00, Spalding High School, Getting our Students on the Right Track! 9-12th grade
  • Kim Lightsey, $955.00, Spalding High School, A Taste of Genetics! 9-12 grades

Upson County:

  • Kenya Campbell, $172, Upson-Lee Primary School, The Circle of Life: Teaching Life Cycles in 2nd Grade, 2nd grade
  • Niki Dunn, $997.89, Upson-Lee Elementary School, ESCAPE indifference and EXPERIENCE your LEARNING, 3rd-5th grade
  • Yodie Ellerbee, $888.83, Upson-Lee Elementary School, Building Future Engineers, 3rd grade
  • Ashley Thompson, $927.26, Upson-Lee Middle School, Middle School Agriculture Mechanics, 7-8th grade


About Operation Round Up® and the SRE Trust, Inc.

Operation Round Up is a Southern Rivers Energy program that has contributed more than $1.3 million to assist charitable groups, education, health and safety and the arts across the nine counties served by SRE.  This voluntary program allows SRE to round up participating members’ electric bills to the next dollar and donate the extra change to the Southern Rivers Energy Trust, Inc. to be awarded as charitable community grants. A board of eleven volunteer-members across SRE’s service area meet bi-monthly to review applications and distribute funds according to the Trust bylaws and funding guidelines. Operation Round Up funds the Bright Ideas grant program, the SRE Trust Scholarship program, and community and individual grants.

Southern Rivers Energy is a consumer-owned cooperative providing electricity and related services to more than 15,000 member accounts in Bibb, Coweta, Crawford, Lamar, Meriwether, Monroe, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties.


Full Project Descriptions: 

Teacher: Lynn Akin

School: Spalding High School

Grade: 9-12th  

Amount: $518.60

Project: May the Force(s) be with You

Description: Using a complex kit of model vehicles, tracks and obstacles, students will get to experience the concepts of force and motion in real life. A hands-on, inquiry-based approach will give students opportunities to set up experiments to further their understanding of these concepts.


Teacher: Jhondee Barnes

School: Griffin Spalding Program Challenge (205 Spalding Drive)

Grade: K-5

Amount: $999.99

Project: Oh, The Places We Can Go and the Things That We Can See!

Description: With virtual reality headsets, students will participate in immersive learning experiences to learn concepts in innovative and creative ways. Students will experience new and exciting learning opportunities only available through virtual reality.


Teacher: Madeline Bartlett

School: Rock Springs Christian Academy

Grade: Pre-K

Amount: $371.00

Project: Pre-K STEM Friday

Description: Students will have the opportunity to participate in different STEM projects once per week throughout the school year. Instructors will have access to a variety of supplies as well as a curriculum to get the students involved in hands-on learning.


Teacher: Rebecca Bowen

School: Rock Springs Christian Academy

Grade: 9-12th

Amount: $968.12

Project: Project and Learn

Description: Through the installation of a smart board, students will have the opportunity to learn more complex and abstract concepts brought to life through a screen. A projector will allow instructors to implement creative learning software and interactive learning activities.


Teacher: Kenya Campbell

School: Upson-Lee Primary School

Grade: 2nd 

Amount: $172.00

Project: The Circle of Life- Teaching Life Cycles in 2nd Grade

Description: Through a live life-cycle demonstration, students will hatch chicks, butterflies, and frogs within the classroom. An inquiry-based, hands-on approach will bring the concept of life-cycles into the classroom in a very real way.


Teacher: Ingrid Dingler

School: Rock Springs Christian Academy

Grade: Pre-K

Amount: $996.09

Project: Lightbulb Literacy Centers: Where Reading Sparks Imagination

Description: Students will have access to headphones and audio splitters so that small groups can listen to new and exciting books downloaded onto the classroom’s existing tablets. These books will be used in coordination to the curriculum, creating a well-rounded learning experience.


Teacher: Kimberly Driskell

School: T.G. Scott Elementary

Grade: 3rd   

Amount: $981.14

Project: Compost: Feed the Soil

Description: Students will use materials to design and build their own compost structures. These structures will be filled with compost material and monitored throughout the school year allowing students to make adjustments based on the structure’s production and eventually using their composts to fertilize gardens.


Teacher: Niki Dunn

School: Upson-Lee Elementary

Grade: 3rd-5th  

Amount: $997.89

Project: ESCAPE indifference and EXPERIENCE your LEARNING

Description: Exciting “escape rooms” built within the classroom will encourage students to use skills across the mathematics, literacy, science and social studies curriculums. They will have opportunities to work in teams to solve problems, eventually “escaping” and engaging their knowledge and skills in a variety of subjects.


Teacher: Yodie Ellerbee

School: Upson-Lee Elementary School

Grade: 3rd

Amount: $888.83

Project: Building Future Engineers

Description: Students will have access to math and STEM centers in the classroom to facilitate a learning environment suitable to a variety of learning styles. A deeper understanding of math and science standards will be the result of implementing manipulatives accessible to every student.


Teacher: Kimberlie Harris

School: Monroe County Gifted Center c/o Samuel E. Hubbard Elementary

Grade: 1st-5th 

Amount: $713.30

Project: Eco Team to the Rescue: Saving the Bats of Georgia

Description: Students will use two Batcam Remote Monitoring kits to monitor, unobtrusively, the endangered bats of Georgia within their custom-built habitats. This observation will allow students to make adjustments within the habitats as needed, making a real difference in the survival of the species.


Teacher: Cody Helms

School: Spalding High School

Grade: 9-12th

Amount: $807.00

Project: Getting our Students on the Right Track!

Description: Students will use a complex cart and track system to better understand the concepts of motion, forces on moving objects, energy transfer and collisions. This system will promote a better graphing system, more hands-on learning for students and more applications for their existing motion detectors.


Teacher: Elizabeth Holloway

School: Mary Persons High School

Grade: 9-12th   

Amount: $1,000.00

Project: Community Based Instruction

Description: Sixteen students with varying intellectual and developmental disabilities will have the opportunity to use real-life skills out in public, at places like Dollar General, Dairy Queen, and Walmart. Budgeting, list-making, restaurant ordering, communication, using a self-checkout, and meal-time etiquette are just a few of the many skills students will learn.


Teacher: Kim Lightsey

School: Spalding High School

Grade: 9-12

Amount: $955.00

Project: A Taste of Genetics!

Description: With the use of biotechnology, students will develop a better understanding of how genetic traits affect their lives. This technology will isolate and identify DNA bands responsible for inheriting various taste receptors.


Teacher: Cathy Partain

School: Pike County Ninth Grade Academy

Grade: 9th  

Amount: $1000.00

Project: Beginner Biblioteca

Description: A new “biblioteca,” or library, will be available to students in their introductory Spanish classroom. Books ranging from classic novels to basic children’s stories will help students see the language used in context, improve reading comprehension, and make cultural connections.


Teacher: Ashley Thompson

School: Upson-Lee Middle School

Grade: 7-8th 

Amount: $927.26

Project: Middle School Agriculture Mechanics

Description: Students will have access to new tools and materials allowing for more advanced skills in agriculture mechanics, electrical wiring projects and woodworking. These skills will help students master the new academic standards and compete in the FFA Career Development Event.


Teacher: Misti Tonn

School: TG Scott Elementary School

Grade: 3rd  

Amount: $719.34

Project: “Rockin” around 3rd Grade

Description: A new Vibratorty Tumbler System will allow students to watch as ordinary rocks turn into gemstones, a process that can take several years in nature. This addition to the curriculum will give students an opportunity for hands-on learning and exploration.


Teacher: Kim Watson

School: Rock Springs Christian Academy

Grade: 3rd  

Amount: $583.49

Project: Bringing History to Life

Description: The Atlanta History Center will send two historical characters to discuss real life experiences, cultural traditions, and contributions to arts and literature of Native Americans throughout history. Students will also participate in craft projects, a special menu, games, and other hands- on activities throughout the unit of Native American and Colonial Days curriculum.


Teacher: Clay Woerner

School: Pike County Ninth Grade Academy (7360 US Highway 19 S)

Grade: 9th, Trail open to K-12

Amount: $940.00

Project: Path through the Woods with Plants and Trees

Description: Various flora will be identified with markers denoting relevant facts, turning this trail into a learning experience. Students in the 9th grade academy will assist teachers with restoring the walking path and labeling trees and plants. Students of all grades will have access to the trail, potentially sparking interest in horticulture, landscaping and other ag-related careers before students attend college.

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