Carteret County Teacher Inspires the Next Generation of Leaders with Bright Ideas Grants

Marsha Sirkin, technology teacher at White Oak Elementary School in Cape Carteret, N.C., has been impacting the lives of students for nearly 15 years. Since she started teaching, Sirkin has been on a mission to get children back into creating and imagining, and she’s achieving that mission through ingenuity and unwavering dedication, and with support from her local electric co-op’s Bright Ideas grant program.

Students practice coding in the “Coding Across Curriculum” project, funded by a Bright Ideas grant from Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative.

In 2006, Sirkin was awarded her first Bright Ideas grant from Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative in collaboration with Sara Weinhold, another teacher at her school, for the project, “Math for Mimio Boards.” She has received 13 grants since.

Bright Ideas grants are available from electric cooperatives to teachers throughout the state to enhance student success through hands-on learning. For Sirkin, the grants enabled her to integrate innovative learning experiences in her technology lab.

While her projects have covered diverse subjects and included advanced technologies such as virtual reality headsets, 3D printers and Sparki robots, they all have one thing in common: bringing learning to life for her students.

Her most recent project, “Coding Across the Curriculum!” allowed her students to build, create and connect technology to their curriculum. Students in pre-kindergarten through second grade learned to code through their sight words and community maps, while third through fifth grade students learned to use java script to design their own programs.

“By providing students a way to explore technology and learn coding skills, the Bright Ideas program is helping teachers, like Mrs. Sirkin, to grow the next generations of the workforce,” said Melissa Glenn, communications specialist for Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative. “Projects like this provide students the opportunity for hands-on learning and give them the ability to bring their imagination to life.”

Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative has been awarding Bright Ideas grants to innovative educators for nearly 30 years, and Sirkin is one of their most decorated grant recipients.

“I am a first-hand witness of the extraordinary experiences that can happen when everyone gives a little,” Sirkin said. “Literal ‘pocket change’ through Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round-Up program has funded incredible innovation opportunities for my students.”

Since receiving her first Bright Ideas grant, Sirkin has been awarded more than $9,000 in education grants, impacting more than 6,300 students.

“I have always displayed my presentation grant check proudly for students to see and know that their community believes in them,” said Sirkin. “They know that a simple idea can transform their time in school and be meaningful and fun.”

Technology teacher Marsha Sirkin has won 14 Bright Ideas grants, providing students with hands-on learning opportunities using advanced technologies such as virtual reality headsets, 3D printers and Sparki robots.