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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Lauren Ritter, Mary Davis and Kim Ruark (2016)

Athens, GA
Howard B. Stroud Elementary School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Seed to Plate,” is focused on teaching students about food production and nutrition by building a school garden. Howard B. Stroud Elementary School currently has eight small garden beds, but unfortunately no tools to utilize them. The team will purchase gardening equipment, storage, seeds and plants so students can gain an appreciation for gardening and learn where their food comes from. The group will also purchase children’s literature to help teachers integrate the new school garden into their lesson plans.

Carol Mickus, Dr. Vanessa Watkins and Dr. Lis Maynard (2016)

Austell, GA
Cooper Middle School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Moving Into Middle Through a Science Portal,” is focused on helping students who attend Clarkdale Elementary School, many who come from low-income households, increase their academic achievement through a successful transition into Cooper Middle School. Through weekly visits and hands-on activities in the middle school’s science lab, elementary students will increase their comfort, confidence and competence in science — while middle school students learn how to become peer mentors. With the help of the students at Cooper Middle School, fifth graders will learn the middle school culture, set up their own science notebooks, participate in labs, and learn how to successfully navigate the middle school science curriculum and the school itself. The $27,000 grant will allow Cooper Middle School to transform its existing science lab into a safe and productive space for the program and extend the hands-on experience that is currently offered. Specifically, the funds will purchase additional equipment, including lab kits, dissection supplies, a Lego table and an interactive white board to expand the program’s robotics offerings for students. As the project grows, the team plans to expand the program to include other elementary schools in the community.  

Kayla Sinotte (2016)

Kapaau, HI
Kohala Elementary School

Sinotte’s innovative idea, “Kohala Elementary School Discovery Garden,” is focused on teaching in an exploratory and multi-sensory way that nourishes the whole child: their mind, body, and well-being. The 40-minute classes are designed to teach sustainable agricultural practices, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, wellness and nutrition, and Hawaiian pono (righteous) behavior in the setting of a school garden. Sinotte hopes the Discovery Garden will not only disseminate nutrition and health education, but also to improve the food security of students' families.

Mike Borrall (2016)

Sioux City, IA
West Middle School

Borrall’s innovative teaching idea, “Haunted Hallways,” is a computer science project focused on creating 3D printed models to build a haunted house in the school. Students will bring these models to life through unique and advanced computer software, engineering realistic design parts and adding special effects to enhance the “haunted” aspect of the house. In addition to this, students will also create and present green screen animations throughout the house. The utilization of computer science and digital production skills benefits students because it challenges them to think critically to solve problems and to overcome obstacles. Borrall is confident that as students watch their code come to life, they while learn vital 21st century STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills, while developing a lifelong love of computer science.

Lindsey Matthews (2016)

Lewiston , ID
Webster Elementary School

Matthews’ innovative teaching idea, “Empowering Students with Tech,” is focused on the integration of Apple iPads into the classroom. The technological presence puts a wealth of rich multimedia assets at students' fingertips and provides an incredible tool for unlimited research possibilities. Not only will these tools be used for research, but also for students to be innovative and create projects that allow them to express themselves. Classrooms will be enhanced with environmental and cultural multimedia through the Global Oneness Project and a culture of innovation where students of all levels are empowered to explore their own passions through Genius Hour (Passion-Based Learning).

John Klapp (2016)

Post Falls, ID
Seltice Elementary School

Klapp’s innovative teaching idea, “Digital Biology Lab,” is focused on provoking students to think about the work of scientists and learning biology in an authentic, hands-on lab setting. Students involved in the project will be exposed to the use of technology in a science laboratory setting. The use of digital microscopes in conjunction with computers will also allow for explorations that can be saved and shared with peers. One of the primary goals for Seltice Elementary School is for students to experience hands-on emerging technologies in the classroom setting. With the “Digital Biology Lab,” the team coordinating the project will introduce students to the excitement of bioscience with the goal of leading them toward rewarding careers in this field.

Susan Schuber, Jennifer Love, Megan VanGorder, Emily Saddler, Katie Ringer and Anna Petsas (2016)

Stanford, IL
Olympia Middle School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?", is focused on collaborating cross-curricular models involving all core subject areas. Students involved in the program will be challenged to develop a greater comprehension of American history and exercise common skills to further understand the hardships of the Great Depression. The students will take on the role of a “professional” living during the 1930s – experiencing the collapse of the stock market, effects of the Dust Bowl, and the societal adversities that occurred during that time period. As a character within that time period, each student will be actively involved in the learning process by reflecting on the experiences of their simulation. Students will have an opportunity to rotate between stations with each of their teachers, exploring different topics pertaining to the Great Depression and their curricular study.

Michael Kosko (2016)

Chicago, IL
Al Raby High School

Kosko’s innovative teaching idea, “Bottle Ecosystems,” is focused on helping environmental science students understand the energy and chemical transfers that exist in an ecosystem. During this project, students will create their own ecosystems using two, two-liter bottles – one filled with water and sea life, and the other with dirt, worms and succulent plants. Students will observe their creation on a weekly basis by collecting data on pH, dissolved oxygen, and nitrogen content. Students at Al Raby High School will be able to observe first-hand interactions between different organisms in an ecosystem and the flow of energy and chemicals between these organisms.

Serena Cruz, Adam DeGroot, Jackie Murphy, Tom Knapczyk, Clint Reames and Stacey Wernert (2016)

Plainfield, IL
William B. Orenic Middle School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “On Target with HR,” is focused on inspiring, motivating and teaching students at William B. Orenic Middle School the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Through the use of polar heart rate monitors in the physical education classroom, students will be able to see the effect exercise has on their body, in real time. At the beginning of each year, students involved in the program will be “fitness tested” to assess their current levels. Based on this information, students will be provided with a variety of choices and activities to help maintain or improve their current fitness level. In order to provide a sense of ownership for their individual goals, they will be required to reach a certain fitness zone using the heart rate monitors, while participating in each activity. Teachers will also have the ability to motivate students providing instant feedback to help guide them toward their goals. By using these monitors, teachers will promote a cross-curricular unit allowing students to graph data and draw conclusions about their individual participation in class. According to the team, this is a new concept physical educators are developing to provide a more hands-on and interactive approach for students.

Patty Atkins and Kellyn Atkins (2016)

Ossian, IN
Ossian Elementary School

The Atkins’ innovative teaching idea, “Full STEAM Ahead,” is focused on exposing students to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) subjects to foster creativity and grit. Starting off as a small afterschool activity, the response from students was so overwhelming that it was extended an extra night. The amount of innovation, engagement and perseverance from students ranging from special needs to high ability was staggering, and therefore, was created into a STEAM classroom idea. This classroom would be outfitted with STEAM materials students could engage utilize. The project will develop a bank of activities that incorporates learning standards in STEAM activity to ensure true integration.