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Great Schools Partnership to Give “TeacherPreneur" Grant Winners Over $150k

Date: 12/17/2015
News Release Number: 15-134
The Great Schools Partnership will surprise 12 teachers on Thursday, Dec. 17, “Publisher’s Clearing House” style for their winning submissions to the Knox County Schools’ TeacherPreneur grant program, a joint project of Great Schools Partnership (GSP) and the Knox County Schools’ Office of Innovation. (A media photo opportunity is available during the distribution of prizes, and is detailed below.)

Beginning Oct. 27, the GSP and the Knox County Schools (KCS) solicited innovative instructional ideas from the school district’s more than 4,000 teachers. A total of 45 proposals were submitted, and from these, twelve were chosen as having the most potential to positively impact student learning and success.

The TeacherPreneur grant program encourages educators in the KCS to be creative problem solvers; it builds and celebrates the instructional capacity of educators, and improves the quality of teaching to directly benefit students. The funds awarded to each teacher will be help them turn ideas for improving instruction into realities inside their classrooms. Because each teacher submitted a budget for their specific idea, the grant amounts differ greatly, but range from $1,550 to just over $49,000 for a total $154,687.79 in grants from the Great Schools Partnership; $85,000 of which is being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

All proposals were evaluated by a panel of experienced educators and awards were granted to the exemplary educators listed below with their ideas:
  • Catherine Bell from Fulton High School: $1,710.70 to help CDC-A students learn life skills by developing a school coffee shop
  • Tommie Branscum from Green Magnet Academy: $2,831.87 for blending the elementary Genius Hour and Makerspace
  • Frank Chen from Hardin Valley Academy: $1,550 for the expansion of the language learning lab
  • Jordan Haney from Rocky Hill Elementary School: $2,257.87 for student produced music to teach language arts
  • Victoria Henderson and Julie Cabbage from South Knoxville Elementary School: $10,000 for Elementary STEM Makerspace
  • Amber Hodge from Rocky Hill Elementary School: $7,819 for the redesign of elementary school classrooms
  • Sarah Kerstetter from Farragut Intermediate School: $1,202.13 for the use of an aeroponic system in science instruction
  • Katie Lutton from Central High School: $16,350 to develop new a ELL curriculum for students with limited formal education
  • Tiffany Nicely from Karns Elementary School: $20,700 for the use of student-produced videos for learning
  • Dominique Nichols from Gresham Middle School: $16,100 for the redesign of In-School-Suspension
  • Jennie Randolph servicing Carter, Farragut, Karns and Vine Middle Schools: $49,160.22 for mobile Makerspace
  • John Tilson from Hardin Valley Academy: $25,000 for the purchase of STEM Makerspace
“TeacherPreneurs are to education what entrepreneurs are to business,” said Buzz Thomas, president of the Great Schools Partnership. “They innovate, have vision, and continually find ways to improve. Through this grant program, we are able to give them a chance to shine. We certainly weren’t disappointed.”

“The Knox County Schools Office of Innovation is proud of the teachers awarded. They embody the mission of our department to be bold and brave in their approach to problem solving,” said Daphne Odom, executive director of KCS Office of Innovation. We are thrilled to begin working with these innovative educators as they implement their exciting proposals.”

More information about the TeacherPreneur Grant Program is available at the Great Schools Partnership and Knox County Schools websites.

The mission of the Great Schools Partnership is to serve as a think-tank, catalyst, incubator, start-up funder and operational partner for making Knox County Schools globally competitive. A free-standing public charity, the Great Schools Partnership has been instrumental in leveraging, creating and/or expanding programs such as Community Schools, Parents as Teachers, early literacy initiatives, summer bridge programs, for struggling students, teacher mentoring/induction programs, Thank a Teacher Week, CODEtn, and Project GRAD. For more information on the Great Schools Partnership, please call (865) 215-4501 or visit our website at
Point of Contact at Knox County Schools are
Melissa Ogden, 594-1905 or
Abbey Harris, 594-2972, or
Excellence for All Children
Twitter: @knoxschools