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Nissan, Business Education Partnership award teacher mini-grants

May 11, 2018

Rutherford County Schools

Eight years ago, Kenneth McGinness was in the business world when he felt called to become an educator. 

Now, a special education teacher at Smyrna High School, McGinness is one of 50 who has received a classroom mini-grant for next school year, thanks to Nissan North America and the Rutherford County Business Education Partnership. 

The mini-grant awards were announced at the Stones River Country Club last Friday, and the grants will be for classroom projects implemented next year. 

As part of the grant program, BEP accepts applications each semester and then selects awardees for up to $500 each. The grants are meant to fund innovative lesson plans or projects and are strictly intended for classroom teachers to use directly with students. 

“You make a huge impact on the kids in this community,” BEP Foundation Chairman Emil Hassan told the grant winners. “I always believe there are two main ingredients in having a good quality of life — health care, education.”

For McGinness’ project — titled Snap-Click-Contact — special education students at Smyrna High School can use pre-made boards that hook together to create simple circuits. By using those types of circuit boards, the students can learn about electrical systems without using solder or other safety-sensitive tools, which might be too difficult for some of them.

“The project will give special education students the opportunity to develop cognitive skills necessary to enhance academic learning and acquire higher-level thinking skills by building simple electrical systems,” McGinness said. 

He got the idea for the project from his own adult-aged son, who saw similar circuit boards in a magazine and ordered them for his own children. 

This year’s BEP mini-grant awards mark the 30th anniversary of the program, BEP Executive Director Amelia Bozeman said.

“Over the years, BEP has played a major role in the education success story that is Rutherford County, and we are so thrilled to be celebrating this anniversary this year,” Bozeman said. 

The full list of mini-grants recipients follows:

Name of Project

School Name


BeeBot On Down The Road

Barfield Elementary

Christi Brownlee

Mrs. Stump's class is going full STEAM ahead

Barfield Elementary

Julie Stump

Playground Sensory Exploration

Black Fox Elementary

Ashley Crosslin (x2)

Around Town on Our Playground



Discovering the Truth

Blackman High School

Diane Webb

unVEXing Robotics

Blackman Middle

Zach Martin

Math and Movement:  Add and Subtract

Bradley Academy

Gail Boyd (x2)

Math and Movement:  Multiplication Hop



Maker Faire Extroidinaire

Cason Lane Academy

Debbie Hickerson (x2)

Girl POWER:  Preparing Outstanding Women for Engineering Roles



STEM on the Go!

Cason Lane Academy

Kathy Latondress

Holding Thunder

Cedar Grove Elementary

Tyson Hoppe (x2)

Can't Beat that Harmony




Central Magnet School

Eve Harrison


Central Magnet School

Marc Guthrie

You Had Me At Robot!

Christiana Elementary

Kelly Patterson, Amanda Amirault

Busy Hands, Busy Brains!

Christiana Elementary School

Twila Forster

Code You Know? It's Full STEM Ahead!

Christiana Elementary School

Kara Merriman

Engineering in Motion

Christiana Elementary School

Terri Jones, Sara Bennett, Jamie Hines


Christiana Elementary School

Shannon Ingram, Kathilu Mote

Forget Jukebox Hero, We’ve got Coding   

Christiana Middle School

Valorie Bonds, Dawn Powell

SPHERO: Coding the Road to Career Success



Give a littleBit; Give a littleBit of

Christiana Middle School

Dawn Powell, David Duez

your Love for STEM



Let Them Build It!!!

David Youree Elementary School

Bippy Tidwell (x2)

STEM Fridays!!!!



Electrifying Science

David Youree Elementary School

Shannon LeCates

Luke's Lego Robotics Lab

Erma Siegel Elementary

Angela Pope

Fairy Tales- A STEAM Dream

Kittrell Elementary School

Kelly Strauss

Balanced Minds for Life

Mitchell Nielson Primary

Casey Sims, Emily Brown

Rev Up Your Engine!

Rockvale Middle School

David Landry

3D Doodlers and Designers in STEM

Siegel Middle School

Katie Harris

On Your Mark, Get Set, Glow!

Siegel Middle School

Miriam Lee (x2)

Diving Deep and Hanging Ten



Science Stamping into STEAM

Siegel Middle School

Hannah Hardiman

Once Upon an Engineer 2

Smyrna Elementary School

Heidi Redmon

Snap - Click - Contact

Smyrna High School

Kenneth McGinness

It's Electrifying!  An Introduction to

Smyrna Middle School

Gina Wray

Electromagnetic Fields



Fairy Tale Fabricators

Stewarts Creek Elementary School

Melanie Strickland, Amanda Sneed

"Holey" Moly - Building with STEM

Stewarts Creek Elementary School

Melody Todd (x2)

Throw Down the Gauntlet - Catapult Style



Learning outside the box through STEM

Stewarts Creek Elementary School

Brittany Jill Richardson

I want my baby back, baby back,

Stewarts Creek High School

Pam Stewart

baby back ribs…to decompose.



How does your garden grow? (Part 1)

Stewartsboro Elementary School

Emily Romine

Roving and Coding in 4th

Walter Hill School

Gina McClanahan (x2)

Hometown Homesteaders



Predicting the Zombie Apocalypse

Whitworth Buchanan Middle School

Diane Ranney




Greg Jones (Nissan North America), Amelia Bozeman (director, Business Education Partnership), Emil Hassan (Chairman BEP Board of Directors) and Director of Schools Don Odom pose with a resolution the Tennessee Generally Assembly recently passed to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the Rutherford County Business Education Partnership.