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Teacher awarded $175,000 grant

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Erin Swanson, director of innovation at Edgecombe County Public Schools, left, stands beside Casandra Cherry as she is awarded the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Teacher Award grant for $175,000.00 on Monday at Phillips Middle School.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

One Phillips Middle School teacher received the surprise of a lifetime Monday when she was told she had just won a $175,000 grant for herself, her school and for Edgecombe County Public Schools.

Casandra Cherry is in her second year as the math multi-classroom leader at  the school. She previously taught math at South Edgecombe Middle School for eight years. On Monday, she learned that she is one of five North Carolina teachers to win the Career Award for Science and Mathematics, a $175,000 grant provided by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

“I am so thankful for the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. We are transforming education in Edgecombe County and these funds will help us further our mission,” Cherry said.

The award will be dispersed over a five-year period. The award includes a $10,000 annual stipend for the teacher paid through the school district and $5,000 that will be held back annually and awarded to Cherry at the end of five years if she remains teaching in a North Carolina public school.

In addition, the school district will receive $10,000 annually to purchase needed classroom equipment or supplies and $10,000 annually for the next five years for activities and expenses related to professional development.

“My students played a huge part in the process of applying for the grant. I asked them to brainstorm about ways they felt they could best learn math and science. Together we created a blueprint for a Makerspace Lab that will allow them to engage in hands-on learning. They will be able to actually invent products in the lab and learn about entrepreneurship,” Cherry said.

She also plans to extend the benefits to the community as well.

“Next year we plan to hold Community Nights where we will invite parents to use the lab to partner with their students to become entrepreneurs and learn how they can all contribute to their community,” Cherry said.

Jennifer O’Meara, principal of Phillips Middle School, said she is excited about what this award means for her school and the school district.

“Not only are we incredibly excited about what this award will mean to our students at Phillips, we are excited about the impact it will eventually have on all students in our school district. Phillips will be the model school and the plan is for all of our schools to have a Makerspace Lab within the next five years,” O'Meara said.

Superintendent Valerie Bridges praised Cherry and her efforts in winning the grant award.

“We are thankful and excited to receive a grant from Burroughs Wellcome. Mrs. Cherry is an irreplaceable teacher and a standout in our school system. We are fortunate to have a dedicated educator with vision. This grant will provide funding for science education at Phillips as well as the other middles in our school system. Over the life of the grant the proceeds will be shared with our elementary and high schools in Edgecombe County Public Schools,” Bridges said.

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