Teacher wins award, prize money buys robots for classrooms

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Several St. Patrick Catholic High School students are preparing for a national robotics competition in two weeks. But first, they have to fix their robot's damaged arm.

Deborah Worrel is the advisor of the school's robotics team. She knows many students are fascinated with the idea of building a robot. But few of them get to participate in the after-school program.

"It's an extracurricular activity," Worrel said. "Between sports and work and just being able to get a ride here, we don't always have students who want to do it be able to do it."

Worrel came up with a creative idea. How about bringing the robot project into the classroom?That way, she can reach more students, especially those who find subjects like science, math and engineering rather boring.

"A lot of kids just like to be hands-on. They like to tinker on their car and work on things like that and that pushes that creativity and that critical thinking farther than they ever realize," said Worrel.

Her idea is about to become a reality. This week, Worrel was one of five teachers named winners of the Leo Seal Teacher Recognition Award. That honor comes with a $1,500 financial prize.

"Well, I was excited that I could implement something different and hands on in the classroom for physics," said Worrel.

Worrel will use the money to purchase advanced LEGO kits for underwater robots. About 50 students have already registered for her Physics class next year.

"We'll be able to build six separate robots," said Worrel. "I'll be able to give them a challenge and with that challenge they'll be on their own to develop, program, built and create their robot to carry out that challenge."

"This is 'Little Debbie'. We named it after Mrs. Worrel," said St. Patrick Junior Brittany Wilem, as she held up a miniature robot.

It was Worrel's robotics team that encouraged her to apply for the award.

"She really thinks outside the box. She really tries to go beyond her boundaries, kind of get the concepts into our heads," said Wilem. "She just gives 110 percent all the time, and I love her as a teacher, honestly."

Worrel is an AP Chemistry and Physics teacher. She has been teaching for 34 years now.

Other winners of the Leo Seal Award are:

  • Barbara Borho of Bayou View Elementary in Gulfport
  • Lori Brennan of Ocean Springs High School
  • Anja Comerford of Magnolia Park Elementary
  • Melissa Pierce of Petal Primary School

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