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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Makeicha McWilliams (2016)

Terry, MS
Byram Middle School

McWilliams’ innovative teaching idea, “Moving Science,” is focused on providing students with interactive, hands-on science activities. Middle school students will travel to elementary schools in the local area to provide fun demonstrations and real-world discussions to make learning about science a fun experience. Students in sixth and seventh grade will concentrate on science objectives, while younger students will participate in the hands-on activities to increase their knowledge on science concepts, preparing them for the fifth-grade science test. McWilliams believes learning from their peers will also create an easier and smoother transition to middle school.

Erin Small and Sarah Rainey (2016)

Billings, MT
Riverside Middle School

Small’s and Rainey’s innovative teaching idea, “Tech for Title 1 Students,” is focused on assembling a Chromebook mobile lab for the disadvantaged students of Riverside Middle School. The collaboration will equip students with the digital skills necessary to be an asset in the community as well as enhance their foreign language and musical skills. The unimpeded access to a Chromebook lab will allow Small and Rainey to design a curriculum that will take students beyond the walls of the classrooms and above the typical teaching "approach.” The two educators believe that through technology integration, students will become creators and collaborators within the learning process, rather than consumers of technology alone.

Lynn Bradley (2016)

Cleveland, NC
Cleveland Elementary School

Bradley’s innovative teaching idea, “Augment Our Reality,” is focused on helping beginning and at-risk students improve their literacy and math skills. Students involved in the program will be able to perform at their respective grade level while mastering the basics to succeed in subsequent grades. Using Augmented Reality, a technology enriching the real world with digital information and media, the students will engage in an exciting and interactive classroom environment. Students will experience an educational setting full of ongoing excitement, as they incorporate hands-on and experiential materials into their classwork. The goal is that students will see dramatic improvements in their literacy skills, ultimately with many significantly increasing their reading and math ability.

Elizabeth Henninger and Dr. Beth Bell (2016)

Mebane, NC
Eastern Alamance High School

Henninger and Bell’s innovative teaching idea, “Interior Design Makerspace,” is focused on creating a space for designing, innovating and building in a corner of the school’s media center in the library. Each semester, students will be able to add their personal, creative touch to design the space, and will be available to use the space for many different classes. Projects that will benefit from this innovative space involve interior design and costume design for the drama department, and sewing and textile design – a major proponent of the state’s curriculum. Both teachers believe this space will enhance and expand the horizons of their students, starting with the execution of a quick project, and leading to a potential future in a growing industry that would appeal to many students.

Christine Tuttell (2016)

Raleigh, NC
Washington GT Magnet Elementary School

Tuttell’s innovative idea, “Number Ninjas Video Tutorials,” is focused on empowering students through self-directed student learning, while providing authentic real world application, giving students the opportunity to think critically about what they are learning. Students will produce instructional math videos that will be posted on a Google site for students, teachers, family members, and other schools to use when they need to review a math concept. Tuttell hopes these videos will help students build their critical thinking and communication skills, while video viewers will be able to understand the math these students are learning, such as parents who want to further help their child with studying or homework assignments.

AnneMarie Gilbertson (2016)

Bismarck, ND
Rita Murphy Elementary School

Gilbertson’s innovative teaching idea, “Movement is Magic,” is focused on how moving helps the child’s brain develop. The brain's frontal lobe, which plays a role in cognitive control, keeps growing throughout the school years. Exercise spurs the brain to produce more of a protein called "brain-derived neurotrophic factor." This powerful protein encourages brain cells to grow, interconnect, and communicate in new ways. Exercise also plays a big part in the production of new brain cells, particularly in the dentate gyrus, a part of the brain heavily involved in learning and memory skills. Gilbertson hopes that with each student having their own pedals underneath their desk, it has the potential to improve their attention span, memory and learning, reduce stress and the effects of ADHD, and combat childhood obesity. She believes exercise may have more impact on children than any other age group, preparing the brain for a day of education.

Stacey Lincoln, Ellen McNemar, Leslie McFee, Aaron Harding and Weylon White (2016)

Omaha, NE
Millard North High School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Pre-calculus Foldables,” is focused on providing students with better tools and materials to use in their pre-calculus and honors pre-calculus classes, which are not currently available, inhibiting the full potential of these students to learn – and of the teachers to teach. Foldables, which are similar to worksheets, as well as fully editable Smart Board lessons, are designed to provide space for the students to record rules and vocabulary, as well as important facts. The team believes these materials will enable teachers to provide a more enhanced learning experience for their high school students.

Laura Holborow, Kate Rosenberg, Marissa Freeman and Megan Gardner (2016)

Edison, NJ
John P. Stevens High School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Growing Back to Nature,” is focused on expanding the understanding of how children can make ‘greener’ choices. The students will create gardens inside and out of a newly developed greenhouse on school property. Students involved in the program will learn the value of gardening for their own nourishment. Educating children about the importance of creating an environmentally clean and safe ecosystem is essential in today's world. According to the team, the goal of “Growing Back to Nature” is not just to tell students what can be done to make greener choices, but rather designing experiences that allow the students to actually make those choices. The addition of a new greenhouse provides a cross-curricular opportunity to grow food that students will be able to utilize in cooking classes, investigate in scientific studies, and proudly share with the community.

Joji Thompson, Tyler Albright and Christina Marzan (2016)

Camden, NJ
Camden's Charter School Network

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Computer Engineering Program,” is focused on student independence, personal growth, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) engagement. The team hopes the students involved in the program will be better prepared for college-level electronics and computer engineering courses as the curriculum will focus on mathematics and physics that relate to electronics. Students will also experience real-world applications through hands-on lab exercises. By the end of this course, students will earn a strong portfolio for college, allowing them to apply to more rigorous university programs, qualify for electronics positions at graduation and be better suited for advanced internships revolving around electronics and programming. The team believes they will have a competitively stronger academic foundation to better their chances in STEM majors in the future.

Dannette Lopez and Kelsey Hatch (2016)

Bloomfield, NM
Mesa Alta Junior High School

Lopez and Hatch’s innovative teaching idea, “STEM,” is focused on developing the skills and knowledge of students in ways that will help them succeed in today's increasingly technological world. The goal of their “STEM” (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program is to enable students to communicate, collaborate, construct and conquer problem-solving strategies. The hands-on program will involve building a boat out of cardboard, tape and plastic — capable of holding two people — to be launched and paddled across a pool. The skills that the students will develop through this project will enable creativity and innovation. They will have a better understanding of how to formulate questions, collaborate and interact with their peers. They will also learn how to analyze and interpret data, as well as draw conclusions. The goal is for students to improve their critical thinking and problem solving skills, while increasing their overall enthusiasm for school. Ultimately, the goal for Lopez and Hatch’s “STEM” program is to produce successful, self-directed learners who are equipped to excel in the global market.