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Helping one Gulf Coast teacher carry on a winning idea after vandals strike

August 30, 2017
Shane Loper
Shane Loper
In the communities we serve, we’re blessed with educators devoted to helping young people succeed. They dedicate their time, talent, and often, their own money to enrich classroom lessons and engage students in innovative hands-on learning. 
One of those outstanding teachers is Tanya Voorhees at West Wortham Elementary and Middle School in Saucier, Mississippi. In 2015 she received a Leo Seal Innovative Teacher Grant, an educational excellence award funded by our bank and managed by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF). Ms. Voorhees used her grant to activate her winning project, “Digital Photography & Graphic Design in Advertising,” an original teaching idea that sharpens students’ critical thinking, creativity, and presentation skills while they master advertising strategy, digital photography, and editing. Students then use their new media savvy to promote school and community issues and programs.
This past spring, vandalism at West Wortham caused more than $30,000 in damage and destroyed Ms. Voorhees’ teaching equipment. Like most schools on tight budgets, West Wortham couldn’t replace the expensive computers and cameras. Disappointed but undaunted by the vandals, Ms. Voorhees and her students persevered—albeit without the advanced teaching tools to replicate a real-world media experience.
When Dr. Laura Steelman appealed to GCCF for a replacement grant for Ms. Voorhees, the foundation and the bank knew we needed to help. GCCF doesn’t usually give Seal grants outside the normal awards cycle; but these circumstances were different. A dedicated teacher had gone above-and-beyond to add value to her students’ education through her Seal award, only to have her efforts hindered by thoughtless acts.
Helping one Gulf Coast teacher carry on a winning idea
Hancock Bank and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation present a Leo W. Seal Innovative Teacher Grant replacement grant to past winner Tanya Voorhees to help replenish teaching technology lost to vandalism at West Wortham Elementary and Middle School in Saucier, Mississippi. Pictured (from left): Keith Williams, Hancock Bank Mississippi President; Don Cuevas, West Wortham Principal; Voorhees; and Lisa Shonewitz, Director of Donor Relations, Gulf Coast Community Foundation.
This week, in front of the West Wortham faculty and staff, GCCF and the bank surprised Ms. Voorhees with a replacement Leo Seal grant. She’ll be able to use this money to welcome her students back to school with newer, more advanced technology like advertising and media professionals use every day.
Click below to watch the surprise presentation.

We applaud Ms. Voorhees and countless educators like her who do so much to inspire a passion and appreciation for learning in students. We also thank teachers everywhere for forging foundations of knowledge on which our children can build their futures. Through their dedication, those educators ignite an enthusiasm for learning that creates opportunities for people and communities across the region and nation.
Learn more about the Leo Seal Innovative Teacher Grants and encourage outstanding teachers you know to apply later this fall.