8 Mississippi teachers honored for teaching excellence, creativity with Leo Seal grants

2023 recipients are (from left to right, top to bottom): Tania Teller-Brooks, Melanie Davis,...
2023 recipients are (from left to right, top to bottom): Tania Teller-Brooks, Melanie Davis, Brandy Waltman Kopszywa, Carly H. Parker, Melissa Leigh Payne, Cherynne Denise Wright, Elvira Gabriela Deyamport and Matthew Seal.(Hancock Whitney)
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 1:33 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Friday afternoon, eight of South Mississippi’s most accomplished, creative teachers earned 2023 Leo W. Seal Innovative Teacher Grants.

Funded by Hancock Whitney and administered by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF), the Seal grants “recognize exceptional dedication to teaching and fund teaching proposals that enhance students’ educational experiences and support state curriculum at K-12 schools in the eight Mississippi counties Hancock Whitney serves.” Those counties are Forrest, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Madison and Pearl River.

This year, six out of the eight recipients are from the Coast. Find recipients and their proposed projects below:

  • Tania Teller-Brooks- Gulfport High School
    • Coastal Waters Pollution Check: Through fieldwork and advanced laboratory experience, freshman and sophomore students at Gulfport High School collect and test water samples from different locations in Gulfport. Using science technology to evaluate the overall health of local water and confirm if common pollutants are present, they see first-hand how pollution affects area water sources.
  • Melanie Davis- Pass Road Elementary School (Gulfport)
    • Community Revitalization & Creation: Research, community interviews, photographs, Maker Mavens supplies, Global Future Labs, and their own imaginations inspire second- through fifth-grade students to design or redesign historical structures in Gulfport, with a focus on buildings damaged in Hurricane Katrina. Combining engineering, scientific principles, and creativity, students learn about related careers, community leadership, and preserving history through revitalization.
  • Brandy Waltman Kopszywa- D’Iberville High School
    • Warrior Coffee: As high school students manage a cart serving coffee, tea, lemonade, hot chocolate and occasional baked goods to fellow students and school staff, they learn key business concepts such as entrepreneurship, teamwork, customer service, money management, and safe food service. Interactions between students with disabilities and nondisabled peers enhance awareness, understanding, and tolerance while promoting economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.
  • Carly H. Parker- Harper McCaughan Elementary School (Long Beach)
    • The Problem Solver’s Friend: Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade gifted students grow to understand the untapped potential of technology by immersing themselves in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through interviews with STEM community members and brainstorming problem-solving possibilities of a 3-D printer. They not only use their real-world experiences to create a STEM educational video library for teachers and students but also lead classroom learning about STEM and 3-D printing.
  • Melissa Leigh Payne- D’Iberville High School
    • Composers Corner: Combining familiar technology with an atypical approach beyond pen-and-paper writing, high school students work as classes to produce high-quality weekly podcasts featuring their analyses of literature, hot-topic issues teenagers face, and tips for academic writing. As they develop, script, and produce their podcasts, students hone understanding of literature, research and analytical skills, and reflective thinking of the writing process.
  • Cherynne Denise Wright- Pass Christian Elementary School
    • B.E.L.O.N.G.: Beating Every Length of Note Globally: The West African djembe drum — a rope-tuned, skin-covered drum played with bare hands and capable of producing a wide range of pitches — helps teach pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students rhythm, rhyme, and repeating patterns that support language arts and mathematics learning. Promoting both unity and diversity, djembe drumming facilitates among students a holistic appreciation of inclusivity, community interdependency, and individual expression and belonging through the music they create.
  • Elvira Gabriela Deyamport- Thames Elementary School (Hattiesburg)
    • Lights, Camera, Action!: Creativity Meets Communication with Movie Making: Electronic devices, props, costumes, green screens, and role-playing help teach gifted students the finer points of moviemaking through original projects focusing on trailblazers whose life journeys have inspired students and a fairytale remix portraying popular characters on trial for alleged crimes. Students build communications, technology, and problem-solving skills while practicing the art of written, verbal, and visual storytelling.
  • Matthew Seal- Forrest County Agricultural High School (Brooklyn)
    • Tower to Table: Reviving a classroom emphasis on horticulture, two farm-to-table vertical gardens help high school students learn to grow their own food, recognize the importance of health eating habits, and understand the considerable work necessary to feed a community. The tower gardens — located in the school cafeteria — teach students community and, with the help of teachers and food service staff, offer a cross-curricular opportunity to enrich classroom learning with real-life lessons.

Each Seal grant recipient receives up to $2,000 to activate their award-winning teaching initiative at their school.

Hancock Whitney CEO John M. Hairston says the company was founded to help people achieve their goals and dreams.

“The Leo Seal Innovative Teacher Grants recipients and outstanding educators across the state are helping students build strong academic backgrounds and apply that knowledge to help them make their own dreams come true,” Hairston said. “We are extremely proud to be part of a partnership that honors and celebrates educational excellence.”

Find a video of each grant recipient sharing their insights on their commitment to teaching here.

Hancock Whitney and GCCF will announce availability of online applications for 2024 grants this summer.

Click here to subscribe to WLOX News on YouTube: Keep up with South Mississippi news, sports, and local events on our YouTube channel!