Nine top teachers earn cash for innovative teaching projects with 2022 Leo Seal Grants

The Leo W. Seal Innovative Teacher Grants, funded by Hancock Whitney and administered by the...
The Leo W. Seal Innovative Teacher Grants, funded by Hancock Whitney and administered by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, laud and encourage educational excellence by underwriting original classroom teaching projects developed by teachers in the eight Mississippi counties the bank serves.(Hancock Whitney)
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 2:49 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2022 at 2:51 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Nine of Mississippi’s most outstanding teachers earned high marks and money Friday as the 2022 winners of Leo W. Seal Innovative Teacher Grants.

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

This year’s recipients of one-time Seal grants of up to $2,000 to activate award-winning projects are:

Sarah Jane Badeaux at Pass Christian Middle School - Initially, 45 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students in a Pass Christian Middle School gifted education class participate in “Virtual Reality Exploration in the Classroom” to immerse in an innovative new virtual world designed to help them succeed in today’s real world. Through the virtual technology of Oculus Quest headsets, students design, create, and solve virtual escape games and explore difference environments touching on all disciplines. They follow and assist historical figures and book characters; complete science experiments; travel on NASA missions; investigate the human body while performing medical procedures; and create student-led movements raising awareness on a variety of topics. Eventually, the project extends to all 500 students at Pass Christian Middle School, including the special education class.

Traci Barrientos at the Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia in Ocean Springs - Structured specifically to help dyslexic students, “M Is for Mindfulness Moments for Me” helps dyslexic students and teachers acquire mindfulness skills and appropriately use sensory spaces such as special tactile, visual, and auditory classroom centers to better understand, manage, and remediate dyslexia challenges. Lighthouse Academy current serves students from four coastal counties, using the science of reading explicitly to remediate dyslexia. As the only program of its kind serving dyslexic students in Mississippi, this integrated mindfulness program not only aids dyslexic students with immediate coping skills but also helps them transition back to traditional school curriculums. Initially, the program helps more than 100 students through 2023, with countless other students having access to these resources as the program grows.

Karen Jean Boutwell at Pearl River Central Middle School in Carriere - For the 53 students currently enrolled in Pearl River Central Middle School’s Tier 3 tutoring program—many of whom come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds—the “Take Me There!” series of field trips to places such as the Infinity Science Center help them better understand connections between academic analogies and information with the world around them. The day-long excursions around the state empower students in building the base of background experiences and knowledge they need to comprehend English Language Arts informational text and literature; improve reading skills; become more adept at analyzing, comparing, and contrasting information and ideas; learn about their own communities; and consider possible career fields.

Renee M. Dellenger at St. Patrick Catholic High School in Biloxi - For students at St. Patrick Catholic High School, a personal finance computer simulation course sets forth financial education foundations for a more secure future. Project based instruction and real-world simulations engage students in deep learning that empowers understanding of smart financial management, from finding jobs, budgeting, and saving to buying homes, insurance, and charitable giving. Through virtual technology familiar to students and seamlessly suitable for in-class and/or remote instruction, “Virtual Business-Personal Finance” equips students to make wise, confident financial choices, manage risks, and realize firsthand how to plan for success while avoiding financial pitfalls.

Banita Ford at St. Martin High School in Jackson County - Students in St. Martin High School’s entrepreneurship class put business theory into practice and business ideas into action by learning the basics of sublimation (or transfer of a design), engraving/cutting using a CO2 laser, or vinyl cutting. Choosing one of those three options and conceiving their own business, student teams develop business plans, learn software to process images, operate equipment, sell their products, and track inventory, sales, overhead, profits, and loss. The “Sublimation & More” team with the most successful business splits the money they make, while other businesses pool their funds for a class pizza party celebrating the program’s success.

Sarah Virginia Israel at Arlington Elementary School in Pascagoula - Across thousands of playgrounds across America, “Peace Path” teaches students how to resolve conflicts peacefully, fairly, and respectfully rather than resorting to violence affecting them and those around them. A Peace Walk along Peace Paths strategically located around campus offers a literal step-by-step solution to empowering students to listen, cooperate, and compromise in settling their own disagreements with minimal or more meaningful adult involvement. A part of Arlington Elementary School’s social studies and social-emotional learning development curriculums, the program encourages cooperation and communications in lieu of confrontation and aggression, helping students develop the interpersonal skills and emotional maturity they need to succeed.

Tammy G. McKenna at Pass Christian High School - Over nine weeks, “Smarter Farming from the Ground Up, Literally!” challenges environmental science students at Pass Christian High School to learn and engage STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts to propose solutions for sustainable farming techniques. Using University of Southern Mississippi drone technology, students design and support their plans for addressing social, economic, and environmental issues affecting the world’s current food supply. Studying impacts such as food waste, global food deserts, land use, and diet choices, students determine factors that limit or influence foods people buy or eat around the world; the effects of diet choices on the environment; and ways land clearing for agriculture affect ecosystems.

Jordan Roy at St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis - As a deliberate, specific response to building and improving students’ mathematics skills and enhancing career options after high school, “Growing Math Skills and Life Opportunities” affords software for all computers in the St. Stanislaus College library and dormitory to address skillsets for all math curriculum content, from arithmetic to pre-calculus. This easily accessible, robust supplemental resource helps increase student remediation, enrich course content, and offer enhancements for in-class instruction. Additionally, with objectives of the individual units aligned with ACT designated skills, the software supports preparation for college entrance examinations and can potentially include reading and language arts content.

Erica Yong van Norden at Delisle Elementary School in Pass Christian - “Galley in the Garden” is a student created, farm-to-table inspired cooking show teaching the value of sustainable agricultures while sharing food tips from Delisle Elementary School gifted students and community members. Combining robotics, hydroponics, innovative farming, local culinary expertise, social media, and nutritional lessons, the program constitutes a gastronomic exploratory experience involving students, area businesses, farmers’ markets, local families, and the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Approximately 96 gifted students in grades two through seven develop the show through simulations in scriptwriting, production, filming, and video editing and, with live studio audiences comprising fellow students, broadcast in conjunction with the daily school news. Students collaborate with their families to submit recipes with farm-fresh ingredients, generating opportunities to learn about community history, cultures, and traditions.

“We at Hancock Whitney are extremely proud of and congratulate the 2022 Leo W. Seal Innovative Teacher Grants recipients,” said Hancock Whitney Chief Operating Officer D. Shane Loper. “Our founders envisioned an institution meant to serve. They saw a strong bank with a tradition of creating opportunities. They set forth a mission to help people achieve their dreams. From the day we opened our doors, Hancock Whitney has carried on that mission and advocated quality education as a means of achieving dreams. That’s why we’ve always considered the Leo Seal Innovative Teacher Grants program a natural extension of our mission.”

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

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