Foundation awards $150,000 to Knox educators

Bridget WallerOur Town Leaders

The Knox Education Foundation has surprised 15 teachers and six principals with TeacherPreneur and PrincipalPreneur grants totaling $150,000 – the largest amount yet to go to Knox County teachers and principals to fund their innovative ideas. Knox Education Foundation expanded its grant program this year, launching PrincipalPreneur as a sister program to its successful TeacherPreneur program, now in its seventh year.


“KnoxEd is thrilled to expand the TeacherPreneur opportunity to our Knox County principals,” said Chris Letsos, Knox Education Foundation’s CEO.  “A unique element with PrincipalPreneur is that we’ll be pairing our winning principals with local entrepreneurs through the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, providing new perspectives on their innovative proposals.”

Due to COVID-19, the majority of the Knox Education Foundation’s Teacher Preneur and PrincipalPreneur awards were presented virtually.

Knox Education Foundation partners with the Knox County Schools’ Office of Teaching and Learning to select each year’s winners. This year, 54 teachers and principals applied for grants, 21 were chosen. The top three focuses this year were student achievement, creating a positive culture and eliminating disparities. With this year’s awards, more than $817,000 has been awarded to 108 Knox County teachers and administrators since TeacherPreneur started in 2013.

The largest 2020 PrincipalPreneur award went to L&N STEM Academy principal Jimm Allen. Allen will receive $20,000 to fund his winning entry to promote student collaboration with the local community through the creation of a new Fabrication and Prototyping Lab. The L&N Prototype Lab is a unique space for the students at L&N. Their plan will engage the local community to push student learning in new directions. Allen’s plan is to use part of the grant funds for “StudentPreneur” funding, allowing the high school students to apply for funds to create prototypes to creatively problem-solve.

Another of the largest 2020 TeacherPreneur grants went to Carter High School librarian/teacher Emily Briano. Briano will receive $8,100 for the creation of a Future Lab, an entirely new space in the school’s library to expose students to post-secondary opportunities. Carter’s library space has not been renovated in over 30 years. The space will offer students help with their resumes and college applications, virtual college tours and interviews, and create unique opportunities for students and parents to learn together.

Grant winners are:

Hannah Rudder, Dogwood Elementary, $2,000

Amanda Gentry, Sarah Moore Greene Magnet, $10,000

Aaron Moody, Green Magnet, $2,000

Tiffany Collins, Green Magnet, $8,100

Desiree Jones, Vine Middle Magnet, $6,500

Scott Stooksbury, Vine Middle Magnet, $12,000

Sarah Johnson, Beaumont Magnet, $5,000

Windy Clayton, Beaumont Magnet, $17,200

Jimm Allen, L&N STEM, $20,000

Debbie Bretscher, L&N STEM, $2,200

Crystal Dougan, Gresham Middle & Powell Middle, $12,000

Dexter Murphy, Maynard Elementary School, $5,000

Jennifer Gahan, Fair Garden Early Learning, $1,500

Frank Chen, Hardin Valley Academy, $14,300

Laurie Stansbury, Cedar Bluff Elementary, $5,000

Shelly McGill, Amherst Elementary, $7,700

Emily Briano, Carter High School, $8,100

Tiffany Watkins, Gap Creek Elementary, $1,600

Jennifer Bowes, South Knox Elementary, $2,200

Jessica Sander, Mooreland Heights Elementary, $2,000

Emily Haendel, Halls Middle, $5,600

Bridget Correll Waller owns BCW Business Solutions, an affiliate of SRW & Associates.

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