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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.

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Erik Schettig, Jennifer Kubacki, Bianca McGhee and Sara Morey (2017)

Apex, NC
Middle Creek High School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Engineering and Design Academy,” focuses on using a cross-discipline approach to Project Based Learning (PBL) in order to promote 21st century learning skills in the classroom. With the Voya grant, they hope to purchase the building materials and data collection equipment necessary to conduct experiments involving physics, chemistry and engineering. In conjunction with an egg drop experiment in their physics class, students will design support structures to protect the falling egg in their engineering class. Similarly, students will engineer a prototype to utilize during a water filtration and purification chemistry experiment. By applying concepts in cross-disciplinary situations, Schettig and his team believe students will better retain knowledge and will be more likely to utilize it in the future.

Sandra Lubchenko (2017)

Greensboro, NC
Brooks Global Studies School

Lubchencko’s innovative teaching idea, “Streaming Water,” focuses on uniting service-oriented learning and STEM education in the development of a creative, independent study service learning project. The Voya grant will enable Lubchenko to purchase kits that will allow children to explore STEM activities related to water shortage, oil spills, hydraulics, and conservation efforts. Lubchenko hopes to make the theme of water conservation as rich for younger students as it is for older ones. She believes that, by bridging the gap between water conservation and STEM education, the school can offer students of all ages a learning experience that is both academically rigorous and enriched with a perspective on the broader social landscape.

John Stempinkski and Andrew Kennedy (2017)

Grand Forks, ND
Valley Middle School

Stempinkski’s and Kennedy’s innovative teaching idea, “Eyes to the Skies,” focuses on connecting students to cutting-edge drone technology. The Voya grant will provide the school with the resources to implement curriculum and school programs that provide students exposure to elements of drone technology, including basic coding, flight mechanics, and professional quality video and photo equipment. Stempinkski and Kennedy believe that these programs will offer students a greater understanding of drone technology and the role this technology will play in the years to come.

Sarah Consbruck (2017)

Giltner, NE
Giltner Public School

Consbruck’s innovative teaching idea, “Sound Practice,” focuses on providing students with certain instruments and opportunities that they are currently unable to receive, including the addition of Ukulele and “World Drumming” classes at Giltner Public School. Over the course of the curriculum, students involved in the project will engage in unique teamwork experiences, while developing self-esteem and respect for one another. They will learn to master the fundamentals of rhythm, melody, harmony, music vocabulary and literacy and music history. Students will be encouraged to use their instruments in the general classroom in order to bring energy and excitement to the class while reinforcing positive outlets and interactions.

Christina Windsor and Team (Administrative Leadership) (2017)

Omaha, NE
Belvedere Academy

Windsor’s innovative teaching idea, “My Classroom Economy System,” focuses on creating a curriculum that teaches financial responsibility, behavior management, and social skill development. The project is centered around the student-led creation of a classroom economy in which students buy, sell, and trade using “Belvedere Bucks,” and learn the economics behind paying fees and rents, developing careers, and advancing through outstanding academics and positive behavior. The Voya grant will be used to provide the resources necessary to develop this complex classroom economy, which will help students learn valuable life skills such as organization, the value of saving, and delayed gratification. Windsor and her team believe that this program helps students learn and internalize these important lessons by experiencing them in a hands-on environment that is accessible, educational, and fun.

Elizabeth Logan, Dave Malay and Steve Shippos (2017)

Concord, NH
Rundlett Middle School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “STEAM work like DreamWorks,” focuses on incorporating Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math into their school’s health curriculum. By creating short films and commercials about current health topics, trends and concerns, students become experts on an issue, allowing them to advocate for particular health topics. Along with being aired on the school's cafeteria television and the local community television station (CCTV), completed films will be uploaded to a YouTube channel, so that students have the opportunity to share the content they create with fellow students, their teachers and those outside of the school community.

Laurie Burns (2017)

Blairstown, NJ
North Warren Regional High School

Burns’ innovative teaching idea, “Heroes Forever,” is challenging students to compile interviews and oral histories from the veterans of the Blairstown community. Students will be tasked with interviewing veterans personally, utilizing technology resources to film and record interviews, as well as photographs and artifacts, and developing a comprehensive understanding of the historical context that surrounds their veterans. The students will then use these materials to collectively create a video and electronic archive of their community’s rich and personal war history. Burns believes that by historicizing the community’s own veterans in this manner, students are able to engage with an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to learning that encompasses technology, history, team-building, leadership and communication. The result, she believes, will be a unique and significant learning product for generations to come.

Lories Slockbower (2017)

Paterson, NJ
School of Education and Training - John F. Kennedy Educational Complex

Slockbower’s innovative teaching idea, “STEM Stories,” focuses on developing students’ creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills through the integration of math and science based story-telling within an ethnically diverse population. The Voya grant will enable the school to purchase materials and technology that allow students to write and create stories in their mother-tongue and English, and then have these stories subsequently converted into a storybook app. This app will then be downloaded on smartphones and tablets and accessed globally. Slockbower believes that this approach enriches students’ 21st century skills by utilizing technology and the power of storytelling to understand the diverse backgrounds and cultures that surround us and make us all unique.

Courtne Thomas and Dr. Mirvetk Tonuzi (2017)

East Orange, NJ
Patrick Healy Middle School

Thomas’ and Tonuzi’s innovative teaching idea, “The Message: Engaging Readers,” focuses on developing a curriculum that incorporates the study of hip-hop music with the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards. The lessons involved in this curriculum are infused with technology, close-read exercises, research projects, and small/whole-group discussions, in order to build student understanding and awareness of hip-hop and its relation to social justice and the entrepreneurial spirit. The Voya grant will provide the resources necessary to bring to fruition the five-week program, which was proven in a quantitative study to advance academic achievement by increasing student engagement through the use of relevant and high-interest materials. Thomas and Tonuzi believe that by merging cultural ideas, talents, and circumstances with Common Core requirements, the program can improve skill proficiency in a manner that is engaging and culturally relevant to the experiences of inner-city children.

Jennifer Bayley, Tina Ecker and Debbie Leyba-Angel (2017)

Albuquerque, NM
Lew Wallace Elementary School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Fossils & Optics Rock!,” focuses on increasing comprehension of geology and optics, two critical knowledge areas that students have identified as difficult to understand. Though Bayley and her team develop experiments with common objects and internet resources, nothing can replace the value of holding a fossil in one’s own hands or looking through a digital microscope at layers of sedimentary rock with one’s own eyes. With the Voya grant, the team plans to purchase materials for students to conduct experiments using fossils, rock samples, waves and light. Through concrete experiences with rocks, fossils, microscopes and accessible geologic timelines, Bayley and her team aim to increase student understanding of critical science concepts.

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