Congratulations to all of our Voya Unsung Heroes winners. Each year, 100 finalists receive $2,000 while three of them are selected as Top Winners to receive additional grants of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000. You can find winners for your state or for a specific year using the controls below.
Christina Littlefield, Lanie Buskin, Greg Hung, and Michelle Dutton (2018)Fryeburg, ME
The team’s innovative teaching idea, “AG Based Learning Environment,” focuses on engaging the students at Molly Ockett School in a cross-curricular approach to learn in a nontraditional educational setting. With the Voya grant, the team’s goal is to increase educational outcomes through experimental learning. Agricultural-based learning was first introduced as a trial period in which students visited local farms, learned about soil, grew vegetables, observed changes and transplanted the plants to an outdoor location. This program was very well received, and the students flourished in this hands-on environment. With the Voya grant, the school’s district has granted permission to create a full curriculum out of this concept. This newly founded Agricultural Based Learning Environment (ABLE) curriculum will enable students to learn the fundamentals of plant, earth and animal science through a practical and hands-on experience.
Amy Langmesser, Dr. Megan Hargrave, and Principal Rachel Card (2018)China, MI
The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Multi-Sensory Room,” focuses on creating a multi-sensory room at Pine River Elementary that is designed to help students with sensory processing difficulties to obtain input that will promote self-regulation. There will be a sensory calming area for students who need a safe and quiet place to reorganize. In addition, the items within the room, purchased with the Voya grant, will provide movement, deep pressure tactile, muscle and joint input as well as provide balance, coordination, organization, and attention. The team will collaborate with many professionals at the school to develop this project and select the most appropriate tools. The team hopes the Multi-Sensory Room will create an appealing, designated environment with a variety of tools that the students can use to meet their sensory needs.
Laurel Engman and Anna Sharratt (2018)Minneapolis, MN
Engman’s and Sharratt’s innovative teaching idea, ‘Wednesday in the Woods,” focuses on providing the Dowling School’s kindergarten program with meaningful outdoor learning experiences, integrated with core academic subjects. With the Voya grant, Engman and Sharatt are able to expand an existing partnership with a nearby school’s program. Through the program, the students will focus on social and emotional development as well as supporting interdisciplinary learning. This project will provide meaningful, recurrent outdoor learning opportunities to a group of children who otherwise may not have access to nature, laying the groundwork for a lifelong connection to the natural world. The team’s research shows that active, outdoor learning can benefit young students in the areas of creativity, problem-solving, executive function, academic performance, focus, motor development, social skills and communication.
Chad Powers and Roxanne Schmiesing (2018)New London, MN
Powers’ and Schmiesing’s innovative teaching idea, “Tomorrow’s Heroes,” focuses on implementing an elective EMT course at New London-Spicer High School as well as CPR courses at the middle school level. These courses will include demonstrations, hands-on practice, opportunities at volunteer or paid-on-call departments, and certification tests to be registered as first responders. Students will develop skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-focused careers and technical education, medical background, and community service. This will allow the students to become an asset to the local community, law enforcement agencies and fire departments nationwide. Through the support of the Voya grant, Powers and Schmiesing will provide students these opportunities to begin serving their communities and our nation.
Cassandra Still and Brooke Barnett (2018)Bethany, MO
Still and Barnett’s innovative teaching idea, “Dynamic Physical Education,” focuses on creating lifelong learners through collaboration between health and physical education programs. Embracing a multi-faceted approach to health and wellness, the project will incorporate a wide range of activities from yoga to weight lifting. With the Voya grant, Still and Barnett aim to impact the whole community by encouraging students to take what they learn in their exercise and relaxation classes home to teach and apply alongside their parents. They hope the program will instill enthusiasm within the students so they will be able to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, propelling them to achieve new heights of success by becoming engaged, life-long learners.
Michele Kearns and Kelly Genova (2018)Festus, MO
Kearns’ and Genova’s innovative teaching idea, “Pollinator Paradise,” focuses on creating pollinator gardens along the paths in the local city parks. With the Voya grant, Kearns and Genova will seek to support their community while incorporating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills. Students involved in the project will use an engineering design process to build a pollinator unit in Festus that will help park visitors, farmers, and the community. By designing, building and installing homes for local Indiana bats, mason bees, purple martins, hummingbirds and monarch butterflies, the students hope to revive the natural pollinators in the community.
Carly Parker (2018)Long Beach, MS
Parker’s innovative teaching idea, “STEM Up!,” focuses on creating a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) closet for the students at Harper McCaughan Elementary School. This resource will further engage students to create resources or supplies to introduce key concepts of STEM in a new and innovative way. With an eye on expanding student engagement, the project will utilize peer learning in which students will teach each other a STEM lesson through interactive videos on various topics. Through the project funded by the Voya grant, students will participate in a period of STEM exploration using new technologies to keep notes, conduct field research and create tutorial videos. Ultimately, Parker will challenge her students to become teachers to their own peers as a way to generate creativity and leadership in the classroom.
Torri Webber (2018)Natchez, MS
Webber’s innovative teaching idea, “For the Love of Art,” focuses on bringing art back to the Cathedral School’s elementary program in a fresh, creative, and community minded way. The previous art teach has since retired and the program was unable to be supported again. Webber plans to keep the arts active in the school by having a variety of talented artists in the community visit each month to tell their stories, teach creative skills and provide hands-on exploration in the classroom. Through the financial support of the Voya grant, Webber plans to purchase the necessary supplies for each student to complete each lesson and host an art show at the end of the school year. Volunteer artists involved in the project, parents, teachers and the students’ peers would be invited to celebrate. In addition, one piece of each student’s own art would be placed in a silent auction where a portion of the proceeds would be used to replenish supplies for the next year and create an art scholarship fund for the school.
Megan Leake (2018)Madison, MS
Leake’s innovative teaching idea, “Bringing Books to Life,” focuses on creating a multi-disciplinary project that will encompass language arts, math, science, and theater by producing a play using themes from several children's books. Students involved in the project will learn reading skills such as summarization, dialogue and dialect, compare and contrast, stage directions, dramatization and understanding how conflict is revealed in drama. Every aspect of the production will be created by students using their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, encouraging innovation and creativity, and developing a better understanding of language and expression. With the support of the Voya grant, Leake hopes that the act of performing will help the students recognize their potential for success and improve their overall self-confidence.
DeLacy Humbert (2018)Helena, MT
Humbert’s innovative teaching idea, “Dinosaurs Are Still Cool,” focuses on creating a hands-on research project that will introduce students to the underutilized science of paleontology. Humbert hopes that through combining authentic field learning with lab experience students will engage in increased collaboration with their peers and partake in real-world employment opportunities. After one dinosaur has been completely recovered, students will complete research and write their findings in a format suitable for publishing in the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology journal. With the support of the Voya grant, Humbert aspires to teach her students the importance of professional publication, peer-review, and field work in pursuing a future career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).