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.
Connie Michael (2018)Crow Agency, MT
Michael’s innovative teaching idea, “Wild Turnips: Cooking Club,” focuses on providing students with nutritional education by teaching them to shop, cook, manage a budget in order to develop a healthy lifestyle. Many students in the local community suffer from obesity and health issues relating to diet. With the support of the Voya grant, Michael aims to implement nutritional education into the curriculum by improving her students with proper food preparation skills, knowledge of traditional food and nutrition practices, and an understanding of social support. Michael also plans to team-up with local community partners to create an educational experience for her students.
Regina Miller (2018)Greensboro, NC
Miller’s innovative teaching idea, “Cultural Diversity/Health Care,” focuses on addressing cultural diversity in the health care industry workforce through education and community awareness. In a creative attempt to tackle gender diversity and pay gap issues, Miller and her students will create a three-phased program to recruit more diverse talent into the school’s Health Science Program and provide basic health care screenings to individuals within the local community. Notably, the Voya grant will be used to purchase the necessary materials to support the project, such as a printer, paper supplies as well as a video camera to assist with the video production to help raise awareness. Through the project, Miller’s students will become more college and career ready by building the next generation of young Certified Nursing Assistants.
Mary Campbell (2018)Charlotte, NC
Campbell’s innovative teaching idea, “A World of Pure Imagication,” focuses on exploring foundational literacy concepts through the eyes of the students at Berewick Elementary School. Students involved in the project will be provided with a topic that they will ultimately need to create into a product. Campbell will assign student groups a topic that they struggled to learn in the past, enabling them to better teach that concept since they understand why it is challenging and how to make it easier to learn. Groups will create a visual representation on paper, make a 3-5 minute video to explain why they chose it and create a lesson to teach it to their peers. Campbell will project the visuals on the classroom walls for students to create a mural. With the Voya grant, touchscreen monitors will be installed along the hallway to see the videos and floating book boxes will be installed to put the students’ games and activities inside. Once completed, there will be a grand opening of the newly designed hallway for the school.
Brandon Dillman (2018)Jacksonville, NC
Dillman’s innovative teaching idea, “What’s Buzzing at the Oak?,” focuses on helping the White Oak High School environmental club become certified bee keepers of North Carolina. This project is the first of its kind in North Carolina as the students at White Oak feel very passionate about honey bees and the problems facing their existence. With the Voya grant, students will create a secure location on the school’s campus to establish and manage hives and colonies of bees. Students involved in the project will periodically check on the bees and implement management strategies. Dillman’s goal is to spread the message about the importance of the bee’s environment and ultimately inspire others to care for them in same manner.
Bethany Furr (2018)Concord, NC
Furr’s innovative teaching idea, “Inspiring Innovation,” focuses on inspiring curiosity and learning for the students at Cabarrus Early College of Technology. Through the use of programmable TI-Innovator software, students involved in the program will have an opportunity to build their collaboration skills and learn to effectively problem solve. With the Voya grant, the students will no longer have to read about biology, physics, or mathematics concepts, but rather be able to manipulate data and information to see how the concepts actually work. Furr’s program will provide new depth to mathematical and scientific understanding and allow the students to be innovators in the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), building a curiosity and understanding of coding and design thinking with them throughout the rest of their lives.
Stacy Anderson and Rachel Lacher (2018)Fargo, ND
Anderson’s and Lachers’ innovative teaching idea, “Kids Lab Makerspace,” focuses on providing an enriched and enhanced learning experience through Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) activities at the Lewis and Clark school. By providing building kits, apps, 3D printers and more, the Voya grant will help Anderson and Lacher create a discovery-based learning lab. Classroom teachers will also be able to seamlessly merge together their current science units and labs through engaging curriculum and technology. Students involved in the project will build on their foundational experiences to explore different aspects of robotics that will allow them to engineer real-world solutions and develop creative confidence.
Danielle Dornsife (2018)Omaha, NE
Dornsife’s innovative teaching idea, “The Science and Art Connection,” focuses on capturing the creativity of kindergarteners by allowing them to create music, dance and visual art to represent their understandings of disciplinary core ideas. During an earth science unit, students will share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time. In the physical unit, they will conduct an investigation to compare the effects of different strengths and directions of pushes and pulls on an object. In the life unit, they will create a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals and their habitats. Dornsife believes children have active imaginations and are willing to tackle any challenge set before them. With the Voya grant this project will capture that creativity by allowing students to partake in process art.
Justin Ballou (2018)Litchfield, NH
Ballou’s innovative teaching idea, “Hip Hop and American Culture,” focuses on providing a hands-on, project-based curriculum, presenting an opportunity for the students at Campbell High School to immerse themselves into components of today’s culture. This curriculum will create a new class titled “Don’t Sweat the Technique: American Culture through the Lens of Hip Hop,” which will look at modern American culture and the influence that hip hop has continued to have on the political, economic, social, and moral systems of its consumers. With the support of the Voya grant, students will participate in the creation of content and immerse themselves in multimedia components as well as will leverage their own passions and abilities in the creation of a sustainable curriculum transferable to other districts. Ballou ultimately hopes to use the opportunity to provide students with the tools and micro-budgets necessary for them to become self-directed and highly-engaged learners.
Daria Pizzuto (2018)Basking Ridge, NJ
Pizzuto’s innovative teaching idea, “Mindful WAMS,” focuses on implementing mindfulness and relaxation techniques into the classroom to help evade feelings of anxiety and loneliness for the students at William Annin Middle School. Through this project, Pizzuto will devote greater resources to help address the mental health of students in an overly competitive school district. Peer victimization, social anxiety, and perfectionism are just a few stressors that her students suffer from on a daily basis. With the Voya grant, Pizzuto will support the school-wide mindfulness initiative to help train teachers to become advocates for student mental health within the school and local community. Pizzuto hopes this initiative will boost students’ focus and creativity as well as foster stable behavior and patience.
Heather Guas, Patricia D'Alessio, Lisa Dato, Anthony DiPalo, Julie Jirout, Heather Reusch, Reena Pawar, and Gail Pawlikowski (2018)Edison, NJ
The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Future 10 Leadership Project,” focuses on developing student leadership skills, while enhancing the John P. Stevens High School’s culture and climate. “Future 10” aims to support and develop "average" students who have been identified as having leadership potential, but may otherwise be relegated by feelings of disconnect from the school community, socio-economic disadvantages, or a lack of motivation. Through this exercise and the activities that follow, students involved in the project will learn to collaborate with people who do not approach challenges in the same way, as well as identify the strengths in all people. Each week the group will participate in one-hour sessions focused on leadership skills including active listening, collaboration, mindfulness and stress reduction, and public speaking. These sessions will also include time for feedback and reflection in an effort to strengthen group cohesiveness and culture.