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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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Sally Mills and Cameron Boaz (2017)

Scappoose, OR
Scappoose Middle School

Mills’ and Boaz’s innovative teaching idea, “A Comfortable Seat: Engineering,” focuses on creating a STEM lab space in which students can engage in a variety of projects that will build their creative critical thinking and problem solving skills. The Voya grant will allow students to participate in real-world engineering projects with a local aerospace manufacturer and other community partnerships. Mills and Boaz believe that through exposure to local careers in manufacturing and healthcare, the use of industry standard software, and the rigorous and challenging project requirements, students will have the opportunity to develop the advanced technical and soft skills required for these engineering professions. Because Mills’ family relocated to another state in June, Boaz will be implementing the project on her behalf.

Sean Fishback, David Yabu and Doug Knox (2017)

Hillsboro, OR
Evergreen Middle School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “EverGREEN Project,” focuses on bridging the gaps between language arts, science and tech education. Through Voya’s grant award, recycling machines will be purchased to help support the repurposing of material for the students to re-create and design elements on their own. Once these machines are constructed, in science class, students will learn about the varying types of plastics, their uses, characteristics and their environmental impacts. The goal of the program is also for students to create projects that will directly impact the school community. For example, designing and building new furniture, school supplies, or other needs within the local community.

Jaclyn Hink (2017)

Schuylkill Haven, PA
Schuylkill Haven Area Middle School

Hink’s innovative teaching idea, “Setting the Scene,” focuses on providing students in her Ancient World History classes a glimpse into the past by creating mock crime scenes that represent the mysterious deaths of important historical figures. Students will be encouraged to adopt the mindset of archeologists and historians as they study the scenes and try to decipher clues. Hink hopes to use the Voya grant to expand her original project, which surrounded a crime scene depicting the death of Julius Caesar, to include scenes from other ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient China. She believes that this engaging activity will foster increased interest in Social Studies, and help students understand the value of examining and learning from our past.

Katona Miller (2017)

Scranton, PA
South Scranton Intermediate School

Miller’s innovative teaching idea, “Splash into STEM,” focuses on developing interest in scientific inquiry among 7th and 8th grade students through the use of real-time data collection and analysis using peer-to-peer engagement. The Voya grant would provide students with the resources to conduct surveys of the physical and chemical properties of the neighboring Lackawanna River, and conduct subsequent research on the data collected. Miller believes that research on the realized issues will aid in the development of practical solutions which, in turn, will develop students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as a greater awareness of the environmental issues that their generation will face in the future.

Stephanie Reilly and Tamar McPherson (2017)

Plum, PA
Plum Senior High School

Reilly’s and McPherson’s innovative teaching idea, “Hands-On Geometry,” focuses on making abstract concepts in Geometry concrete and hands-on through the use of 3D-printers and Hummingbird robot kits. Instead of simply solving problems on paper, with this technology, students will be able to interact with math in a completely different way. Students can create tangible geometric shapes with the 3D-printers or use the Hummingbird robot kits and an easy-to-learn programming language to develop math games. By bringing math out of the textbook and demonstrating its use in the physical world, Reilly and McPherson hope to deepen their students’ understanding of complex mathematical topics.

Melissa Goding, Christina McNeil and Margaret Rainone (2017)

Providence, RI
Pleasant View Elementary School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Growing Minds, Growing Meals,” focuses on providing opportunities for the students at Pleasant View Elementary School to learn about gardening and healthy eating. Students involved in the program will bring their knowledge and personal garden kits home to share with their families. The project’s goal will provide an inclusive outdoor learning environment for students, where all students of all learning styles and needs will be accommodated, providing an opportunity to grow to their full potential.

Alethea Setser (2017)

Mt. Pleasant, SC
Laurel Hill Primary School

Setser’s innovative teaching idea, “#StopBioTime,” focuses on utilizing subjects related to technology, art, science, engineering, and creativity to create stop motion animation projects. The Voya grant will enable students to create a stop motion green screen biography movie based on a biography of their choosing, which they will then share on the school’s internal classroom site, as well as the school’s public blog and social media accounts. Setser believes that by giving students the freedom to independently study and write about a topic of their choosing, and then to subsequently engineer a project of their very own, they will have the opportunity to develop their verbal, scientific, analytical, and creative skills, while connecting with students and peers beyond their own classroom via social media.

Thomas Townsend (2017)

Lancaster, SC
Indian Land High School

Townsend’s innovative teaching idea, “Cloning and Sequencing,” focuses on creating a curriculum that allows students the opportunity to add to the world’s body of scientific knowledge through experiments and research related to cloning and gene sequencing. The Voya grant will offer students the resources needed to conduct a six to eight-week independent study, for which they will utilize their understanding of molecular biology, DNA isolation, restriction enzymes, Polymerase Chain Reaction and gene cloning to complete a real-world laboratory research project. Townsend believes that by incorporating active learning strategies and project-based laboratory experiences, students are able to develop skills related to critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaborative work, which can be applied both within and outside of the classroom.

Charles Brown (2017)

Pageland, SC
Central High School

Brown’s innovative teaching idea, “Eagles Graphics,” focuses on coupling marketing principles with creative and entrepreneurial skills. Students market graphic and screen printing services to organizations and individuals within Central High and its feeder schools. In groups, students will create their own themed shirt, produce the shirt and market it. Students come up with promotions and even develop ads, and sales aids. Brown believes that the program merges marketing, digital desktop publishing, photography and screen printing – and enables students to perform tasks that touch all facets of what they would encounter in the real world.

Joseph Moseley (2017)

Memphis, TN
Craigmont High School

Moseley’s innovative teaching idea, “Social Documentary as Art and Ethics,” focuses on teaching students the art of documentary photography, social media etiquette and responsibility, while encouraging them to become more socially involved in their own communities. The project will ask students to write an essay and produce a series of photographs that tell the story of a particular social issue. This assignment will be ongoing throughout the school year, giving students ample time to conduct research and interview principle people, while also forcing them to view the big picture of the issue. Moseley hopes that by facilitating involvement in community building organizations at a young age, this project will help students become well-rounded, empathetic adults.

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