West Stanly Middle teacher receives grant for ‘socially awkward’

Published 9:05 am Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Union Power Cooperative recently awarded a Bright Ideas Education grant to a Stanly County educator to help fund creative and engaging projects for her students.

The Bright Ideas Education Grants program, sponsored by North Carolina’s electric cooperatives and Union Power Cooperative, strives to improve education in North Carolina classrooms.
Grants are awarded up to $2,000 to teachers to apply for classroom-based projects in grades K-12. More than $20,000 was awarded to innovative educators in the company’s service territory.

Stanly County’s winner was Mary Barbee of West Stanly Middle School for the “Socially Awkward” program. Barbee was awarded $1,870.

“Relationships in middle school can be awkward, but they don’t have to be,” Hope Miller-Drye, administrative and board assistant for Stanly County Schools, said in an email. “Through ‘Socially Awkward,’ Mrs. Barbee’s social outdoor grant for WSMS, students will have unique opportunities to form relationships with peers through social interactions. As promoted by the WSMS S.A.V.E. (Students Against Violence Everywhere) Club: ‘It is extremely important for students to have opportunities to initiate conversations and form friendships. No matter the discipline or subject area of study, all students benefit from the security of knowing you are not alone.’ ”

Miller-Drye said Socially Awkward is a grant written by Barbee to provide an opportunity for students to express their creativity and personal interest through outdoor collaborative activities.

“With the grant funding, Mrs. Barbee brought new outdoor opportunities to WSMS,” Miller-Drye said. “Giant chess, cornhole, giant Connect Four, adirondack chairs, giant Jenga, sidewalk chalk, a block rocker speaker and more have been made available to the student body to use during their outdoor social time.”

“Teachers are important in motivating and inspiring our youth to become future leaders,” added Emily Aldridge, communications and public relations specialist at Union Power. “The Bright Ideas Education Grants program enhances education and creates a dynamic learning environment. The program strengthens our communities and ensures that education meets the needs of students in a changing world.”

Since 1994, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have collectively awarded $15 million to 14,200 projects to support 3.5 million students.

Union Power Cooperative is a member-owned electric cooperative that provides electric service to more than 86,000 member accounts in Union, Stanly, Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Rowan counties.