McPheeters Bend

McPheeters Bend Elementary near Church Hill is closing its doors at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

CHURCH HILL — McPheeters Bend Elementary near Church Hill is one of 197 schools across seven states to be awarded a share of $800,000 in grants intended to develop STEM education projects across the Tennessee Valley.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, in partnership with TVA retiree organization Bicentennial Volunteers Incorporated, announced the grants Friday, which also include Sullivan County awards to Innovation Academy in Blountville and Sullivan East Middle School in Bluff City, as well as several other schools in Northeast Tennessee.

Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson told the Times News on Friday that the McPheeters Bend grant will be used to encourage female students to get interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) projects.

“The grant at MBES would introduce biographies of women pioneers in these fields,” Hixson said. “As for supplies, the grant would provide a 3-D printer, digital microscope and a robot.”

McPheeters Bend is set to close at the end of this school year, and Hixson said any items purchased through the grant will follow students to their next school. The majority of MBES students are expected to attend Church Hill Elementary in 2021-22.

The competitive STEM classroom grant program received more than 600 applications from across TVA’s seven-state service territory.

The grant program provides teachers an opportunity to apply for funding up to $5,000, and preference was given to grant applications that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic development and community problem solving. Schools that receive grant funding must get their electricity from a TVA distributor.

Also among the 197 grant awards is Cedar Bluff Elementary School in Knoxville, where students will benefit from being introduced at a young age to life-saving first aid, emergency response, and disease prevention.

“With the need for healthcare providers soaring now more than ever, this grant will allow us to spark an interest in healthcare to many future doctors and nurses as early as kindergarten,” said Cedar Bluff teacher April Lentze.

Another Tennessee school that received funding is in rural Perry County, where science teacher Emily Rogers is excited to now have the resources to teach biology from a distance.

“The coronavirus pandemic has placed limitations on our ability to perform traditional labs,” Rogers said. “Online dissection platforms and lab curriculum will allow students to still be able to learn laboratory practices while following CDC guidelines. Thanks to TVA and BVI, I now have the tools to teach more effectively virtually as well as in person.”

Across the TVA’s seven-state service area, educators submitted projects large and small to further STEM education initiatives in the classroom, both in-person and virtual.

“Despite the new challenges Valley teachers faced in 2020, they are still focused on providing the best STEM education possible and have adjusted to new ways of teaching,” said TVA Community Engagement Senior Program Manager Rachel Crickmar. “I am proud of the partnerships we have built with these amazing educators across the Tennessee Valley over the past few years and are pleased to be able to provide some support through this program.”

Crickmar added, “The projects were all across the STEM spectrum. It is so impressive to see what teachers across the Valley are doing to prepare the workforce of the future. Through the grants awarded this year, over 72,000 students will be directly impacted across the Valley.”

Other Northeast Tennessee schools to receive a TVA STEM classroom grant include: Ridgeview Elementary in Gray; West View in Limestone; Union Heights Elementary in Morristown; Unicoi County High School; Unicoi County elementary schools in and around Erwin; St. Anne Catholic School in Bristol, Virginia; Baileyton Elementary in Greeneville; Fall Branch Elementary; Hancock County Elementary; John Hay Elementary in Morristown; Lake Ridge Elementary in Johnson City; Morristown East; and Morristown West.