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.
Beau Sawyer (2015)Big Lake, AK
Sawyer’s innovative teaching idea, “Theater in our Schools,” is focused on building a theater program for all middle school students, as well as interested students in the neighboring high schools that do not offer any arts programs. There has been a steady decline in art classes within schools around the country making extracurricular programs critical to provide theater opportunities to students. Sawyer’s theater program will bring arts to students at these title one schools, which currently offer limited after school programs, and give them the opportunity to perform in their community.
Kerry Goff (2015)Mobile, AL
Goff’s innovative teaching idea, “Biotechnology Lab Experience,” is focused on expanding students’ understanding of the use of biotechnology through first-hand experience in the classroom. The students will use equipment to carry out an experiment beginning with extracting DNA from an organism and later visualizing the DNA through gel electrophoresis. By working through the entire process, the students will gain a more accurate understanding of how the biotechnology works and the possibilities in research that the biotechnology presents. Biotechnology plays a larger role in biology now than ever before. Goff believes this project will generate excitement about careers in science, especially ones that may not lead directly to medicine.
Suzanne Sullins (2015)New Market, AL
Sullins’ innovative teaching idea, “Lights, Camera, Action!” is focused on creating a student broadcast station to provide students with the opportunity to use broadcast production techniques as a means to learn technological skills that they will need throughout their lives. Using state-of-the-art equipment, students will work as part of a team to solve the problems associated with creating a broadcast: equipment use, planning a broadcast, writing a script, and solving the problems involved in creating a finished broadcast. Sullins believes these broadcasts also will serve as a means to promote school events through a daily news program for the school and community, acting as an excellent public relations tool for the school. This broadcasting program is a means to help students achieve technological literacy - an essential in today’s global community.
Teresa Zimmer (2015)Guntersville, AL
Zimmer’s innovative teaching idea, “Making Makers,” is focused on challenging students to invent, experiment and take risks by enhancing the elementary school’s “makerspace” — an educational workshop for students who learn best by doing. Zimmer plans to improve this learning environment by adding circuit stickers, which are peel-and-stick electronics that students can use to build glowing, sensing and interactive projects without complicated equipment or programming skills. Adding a new component of circuitry to the “makerspace” workshop will provide infinite possibilities of open-ended inquiry, creativity, imagination, and learning that students will discover is fun, challenging and authentic. This type of hands-on, learning environment also will help reduce the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills for young girls.
Patricia Daniels (2015)Greenbrier, AR
Daniels’ innovative teaching idea, “Bridging Communities,” is focused on making real-world literary connections to all levels of learners through collaboration, communication and creativity. One component of the program, called “ePals,” will involve the use of technology so that her fifth-grade students can connect with other fifth graders in the places they read about around the globe. Daniels says this can enhance the impact of reading and comprehension for children as they learn about different cultures through the eyes of other fifth graders like themselves. Other components will involve the creation of a current dictionary of slang and texting language that students will share with their older relatives (grandparents) and community members and also the production of a Great Depression video where each student will write, videotape, edit and interview a relative or community member who lived during the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl.
Brittany Berry (2015)Springdale, AR
Berry’s innovative teaching idea, “HTMS Collaboratory,” is focused on creating an interactive and collaborative workshop in the school where students can actively engage in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education. This learning space, called the HTMS Collaboratory, will be designed by the middle school students and used during and after school to expose students to cutting-edge resources in technology like 3D printers, microcontrollers and computer-aided drafting (CAD) programming. This project will benefit all students, especially those with limited access to technology at home. Additionally, it will engage students in advanced technological concepts and inspire them to consider STEAM careers.
Jeff Sweet (2015)Phoenix, AZ
Sweet’s innovative teaching idea, “New Media Marketing,” is focused on using technology and software to teach students about digital marketing in a collaborative, challenging and engaging way. Marketing experts no longer solely rely on traditional media outlets like radio, television, magazines, newspapers and signage to sell their products to consumers. Instead, savvy marketers are reaching customers online by communicating with them directly through websites, apps and social media. Sweet will teach students how to develop and build a student-managed website utilizing current digital and social marketing techniques. They will then be responsible for promoting the website and creating content including a commercial or public service announcement to incorporate in a “live” event and for later viewing on the site. This program will teach students to creatively apply new media marketing skills including analytics, mobile, social media, web design, video production, search engine optimization, and project management.
Sarah Greif (2015)Apple Valley, CA
Greif’s innovative teaching idea, “Painting History,” is focused on opening students’ minds to world history through the study of art in ancient civilizations. Students will learn how art was created in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, Rome, and Greece, and then will create their own art project that is signature to each culture. Greif will provide the opportunity for students to discover the Valley of the Kings and King Tut’s tomb, design a drinking vessel from Greece, create a terra cotta warrior to protect them, and paint an oil lamp from Rome — all through the art assignments following each unit. These projects will span a school year and will allow students to learn about ancient history in a different and creative way.
Carol Hakobian (2015)Woodland Hills, CA
Hakobian’s innovative teaching idea, “Drought Vegetation Education,” is focused on combining cross-curricular, fifth-grade Common Core standards and next generation science skills with civic responsibility. Students will engage in open-ended experimentation where they will discover how plants survive in the Southern California environment. Throughout the project, students will read and use technology to learn about the drought and proper planting — recording what they discover in journals and formal essays. The students also will combine their learning with math and engineering skills to design and build an above ground, drought resistant planting area on the school’s campus. Hakobian also will have the fifth graders document and record their experience with digital cameras, so they can create unique presentations to teach other students and adults about the drought and how people’s planting habits effect California’s available water supply.
Sammy Lyon and Betsy Rivera (2015)Lawndale, CA
Lyon and Rivera’s innovative teaching idea, “Top Chef: The People’s Food,” is focused on empowering students with the knowledge, skills and practical experience to lead their school and local communities toward environmentally sustainable practices. The two teachers will use the project to challenge high school students to think critically about food sources and access, teach students to prepare and share healthy and affordable meals, and facilitate the creation of “food justice” exhibits to educate peers, parents and community members. The program will culminate in a youth-hosted community event at the high school featuring interactive games, presentations and a cook-off. Students will learn practical skills to become community advocates by working in teams to plan the event, design games and organize the cooking competition. The winning chefs and game designers will have the opportunity to transform their booths into a traveling science exhibit, using cross-age mentoring to teach healthy eating habits to younger students in their community.