KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Great Schools Partnership surprised an Austin-East Magnet High School teacher with a $15,000 check Friday. 

Great Schools Partnership's Jonathan Scoonover, Knox County Superintendent Bob Thomas and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs paid a surprise visit to Austin-East teacher Laura Lee Thompson's classroom to deliver the check to her.

Thompson will able to use it to create a program that takes visual arts beyond the confines of using a pencil or pen, and into 3D software and graphic design to make digital art. 

According to Great Schools, she will use this grant to use technology to connect her students with art in the STEM, or Science Technology Engineering and Math, fields.

"Access to these tools would allow for students to learn real-world design skills that could prepare them for careers after high school," Thompson said in her application for the award.

Laura Lee Thompson
Great Schools Partnership's Jonathan Scoonover, Knox County Superintendent Bob Thomas and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs paid a surprise visit to Austin-East Magnet High School teacher Laura Lee Thompson's classroom to deliver the check to her.
WBIR

Great Schools said it received 75 entries for this year's TeacherPreneur grants. The 17 winning teachers will receive cash awards ranging from $700 to $15,000 from the Great Schools Partnership, according to a release. $101,570 in grants was given out total.

The amount of each grant is based on the winning teacher's individual request.

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"TeacherPreneur is a grant award program funded by Great Schools Partnership and administered in partnership with Knox County Schools' Office of Teaching and Learning. It aims to promote KCS teachers as educational leaders and creative problem solvers by encouraging them to use their expertise and creativity to improve the district and the learning opportunities provided to Knox County students. 

Any full-time Knox County teacher is eligible. 

According to the release, this is the sixth year that Great Schools Partnership has partnered with Knox County Schools to offer teachers funding to pursue their creative ideas in the classroom through its TeacherPreneur grant program. Since the program's inception, Great Schools has awarded $643,000 to 85 Knox County teachers. 

"Our TeacherPreneur grants provide teachers with the funds they need to turn their innovative teaching ideas into reality," said Jonathan Scoonover, Great Schools Partnership's vice president of Research, Development and Evaluation.  "While teachers are the recipients of the awards, it is Knox County's 60,000 students who are the true beneficiaries of this program."

Laura Lee Thompson
Great Schools Partnership's Jonathan Scoonover, Knox County Superintendent Bob Thomas and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs paid a surprise visit to Austin-East Magnet High School teacher Laura Lee Thompson's classroom to deliver the check to her.
WBIR