Meet the 2023 winners of the Leo W. Seal Innovated Teacher Grants

Eight of South Mississippi’s most accomplished, creative teachers earned 2023 Leo W. Seal Innovative Teacher Grants for their commitment to educational excellence and to pay for original teaching projects designed to enrich students’ education with hands-on learning opportunities.

Here are the winners and their award-winning projects:

Tellier Brooks Tania 2514

Tania Tellier-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.


Davis Melanie 2489Melanie 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.

Deyamport Elvira 2502Elvira 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.

Kopszywa Brandy 2463Brandy 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.

Parker Carly 2471Carly 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.

Payne Melissa 2454Melissa 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.

Seal Matthew 2495Matthew 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.

Wright Cherynne 2482Cherynne 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.

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