Hancock Bank recognized some of the most outstanding educators in South Mississippi on Friday, as part of its 21st annual Leo Seal Innovative Teacher Grant program.
The program awards grant money for outstanding teaching and commitment to students at public and private schools in the seven counties in which Hancock Bank has branches: Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River, Jefferson Davis, Lamar and Forrest counties.
The grants help fund original projects to reinforce classroom lessons and state objectives.
The teachers were given up to $2,000 depending upon their project.
Winners revealed some fascinating classroom projects. They include the study of bat populations to increase trade skills; the exploration of STEM-related learning with smart robots called “ozobots” and a mathematics project that centers on the aerodynamics of a golf ball in flight.
This year’s 10 award winners and their projects are:
▪ Jeff Anderson and Letha Boudreaux of St. Stanislaus High School: They plan to get students from several area schools to participate in activities focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and marine science. STEM education helps create critical thinkers, increases science literacy and enables the next generation of innovators.
▪ Ashley Chennault of Ocean Springs Upper Elementary School: Chennault’s project will introduce the science of aquaculture through hands-on interaction with tanks, animals, plants and fish to help students understand all types of aquatic organisms in various marine environments.
▪ Dawn Coleman of Ocean Springs Upper Elementary: Coleman’s project asks students to look at bat population declines in the world to understand their habitat. Students will build bat houses, which builds trade skills.
▪ Melissa Harris of Pass Christian High School: Harris plans to transform the school hallway into a chronological immersion exhibit designed to teach, celebrate and generate student enthusiasm for the Pass Christian community. The timeline will span the 18th to 21st centuries by displaying images, labels and quotations from local, national and world history.
▪ Virginia McLaughlin of St. Martin Middle School: McLaughlin will be one of the key instructors at Jackson County’s recently acquire Fab Lab, a STEM-related laboratory that Chevron donated to the school district. She plans to teach her students math and programming skills by working with smart robots called “ozobots,” which follow lines of colored patterns, roam freely or be programmed through phone apps.
▪ Britany Oliphant of Oak Park Elementary: Oliphant plans to incorporate a new style of learning originally designed for adult games known as “escape rooms.” Her project will use students’ problem-solving abilities to develop critical thinking and troubleshooting skills.
▪ Sharon Thompson of Trent Lott Academy: Thompson plans to introduce her students to the world of digital media. She plans to have her students explore animation, storytelling and film production and have her students communicate those stories digitally.
▪ Patrick Wadsworth of Gulfport High STEM Academy: Wadsworth’s work with the Robotics Team Fusion and the Technical Writing Department. He plans to increase students’ proficiency in STEM-related fields such as aquatic technology and remotely operated vehicles.
▪ Victoria Williams of St. Patrick Catholic High School:Williams plans to take the game of golf and apply it students’ understanding of mathematics. Students will learn the aerodynamics of a golf ball in flight, plus the trajectory, angles and degrees of their swings. They’ll also put their math into practice on the green.
Hancock Bank established the Leo Seal program in 1994 as a permanent endowment of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation Pat Santucci Friends of Public Education program. The first awards were presented in 1996. They were established to pay tribute to the leadership and achievements of Leo. W. Seal, Hancock Bank president from 1932 until his death in 1963, and his son, the late Leo W. Seal Jr., who was Hancock’s chief executive for 45 years.