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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Christina Bourne (2016)

Carson City, NV
Mark Twain Elementary School

Bourne’s innovative teaching idea, “Connecting Music and Literacy,” is focused on utilizing barred instruments, like a xylophone, and children’s literature to improve student achievement in the areas of reading and composition. The use of barred instruments in conjunction with literature will help reinforce key skills that are crucial for reading fluency. When playing these instruments, the students will learn to play left to right. This action reinforces the method in which humans learn to read text through the movement on the instrument. The program is designed to help improve students’ reading skills by crossing the midline of their body to play the notes on the instruments. This action of crossing the midline helps the brain make connections from one side of the body to the other. Bourne hopes this program will help improve reading and comprehension scores across the elementary school. 

Jennifer Bertrand, Robert Blake and Julie Coleman (2016)

Le Roy, NY
Le Roy Central School District

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Knights of the Makerspace,” is focused on providing the opportunity for students to collaborate while boosting their potential for creativity and innovation through the use of technology. Students involved in the program will have access to the use of a makerspace, a creative, ‘do-it-yourself’ space where students can gather to create, invent, and learn. The goal for “Knights of the Makerspace” is to create a space within the LeRoy Central School District building for fourth, fifth and sixth grade students wherein they can utilize robots, circuits, computer coding, 3D printing and more and ultimately tap into their problem solving potential. Students will have access to the makerspace during or after the school day. Additionally, the space will be used to assist in the recruiting efforts of the school’s female population, which is a priority to empower and energize students within the computer sciences field.

John Harrison (2016)

New York, NY
Inwood Academy for Leadership

Harrison’s innovative teaching idea, “Urban Woodworking Project,” is focused on providing students with hands on experience and exposure to an artistic medium that has disappeared from the urban learning environment. Inwood Academy for Leadership will offer this woodworking program in hopes of helping students learn the basics of carpentry, furniture making, tool usage, and safety within an authentic workshop atmosphere. Although the school’s primary focus is on academics, Inwood Academy for Leadership values real world experiences that Harrison believes can deepen students’ understanding of academic concepts, build their bank of knowledge and sets of skills, and establish them on a track that will lead to a successful and rewarding career.

Brock Wysong (2016)

Dublin, OH
Dublin Coffman High School

Wysong’s innovative teaching idea, “Roller Coaster Engineering,” is focused on helping students better understand physics by designing their own roller coaster using computer software. The program will give students the opportunity to use their knowledge for a real-life application. As students work to create their roller coasters, they will have the chance to consult with actual mechanical engineers who work in the theme park and roller coaster industry. Students will be able to discuss their designs and receive valuable feedback. Additionally, students will be given autonomy during the project. They will not be told what kind of roller coaster to build or how they should do it. The only requirement is that the roller coaster is safe for riders. This will allow the creativity of each student to shine, while also challenging his or her engineering and physics skills.

Shea Havens-White, Angela Yake, Grant Rogers and Jason Siwek (2016)

Cedarville, OH
Cedarville High School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “No Holds Barred,” is focused on helping students in business, science and technology classes take their learning beyond textbooks and use their knowledge to create an actual enterprise. The students will engage in a project-based learning experience where they will have the opportunity to build, design, market and sell products of their own creation. Students from four different classes with four different teachers will work together collaboratively throughout the process. Students will begin by learning the basics of entrepreneurship and business management as they form their own small business. Students in engineering classes will then use their skills in mathematics, technology and science to create the unique products by using specialized software and equipment like 3D printers and 3D cutters. The product will then be packaged and sold by business classes on the school’s e-commerce site. The project will help students see the real-life connection of what they learn in the classroom, while also encouraging them to think like scientists, artists and entrepreneurs.

Kara Houser (2016)

Toledo, OH
Grove Patterson Academy

Houser’s innovative teaching idea, “Calling all Monarchs!”, is focused on teaching the students of the Grove Patterson Academy about the journey of the Monarch Butterfly. Students involved with the program will develop a respect for the human world through the development of the butterfly's habitat. They will learn how to properly care for the butterflies, focusing on what they eat and how they lay eggs. Students will also study the methods of attracting butterflies to their “at home” gardens through the development of a butterfly garden at school. This will be an interactive project allowing students to design and construct butterfly beds in a garden that will follow them from the third and fourth grade, all the way through to eighth grade – ultimately caring for the beds through their next six years at Grove Patterson Academy.

Shea Havens-White, Angela Yake, Grant Rogers and Jason Siwek (2016)

Cedarville, OH
Cedarville High School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “No Holds Barred," is focused on building a cohesive department where business, science, and technology classes work together to create a program that requires students to break out of their bubble to build, design, and sell products of their own design. Students involved in this new and unique program will engage in meaningful project-based learning experiences, encourage students in interdisciplinary learning, and motivate their peers to think as scientists, entrepreneurs and artists. The students will begin by learning the basics of hands-on entrepreneurship and business management as they form their own small business. Cedarville High School business, science, and technology students will no longer be learning from a textbook, but rather using the skills they are learning to create and develop products to be marketed and sold on the schools dedicated e-commerce website. By selling the products that they create, students’ learning experiences will become an actual commodity.

Holly McElwee (2016)

Piqua, OH
Piqua Central Intermediate School

McElwee’s innovative teaching idea, “Rockin’ Through Science Class,” is focused on helping students better understand rocks, minerals and soil by participating in several hands-on experiences. Students will conduct hardness testing, soil sampling and rock identification as part of the interactive unit. Additionally, students will participate in a walking field trip to a local cemetery to provide a real-life connection to rocks and their practical uses. Guest speakers from a local company that produces headstones will teach the students how granite goes from the ground to being manufactured into becoming a monument. The students will also have the opportunity to analyze the impact of erosion and weathering on several of the headstones. McElwee hopes this unique approach will better engage her sixth graders and get them excited about earth science.

Jeffrey Bracken and Natalie Schaublin (2016)

Westerville, OH
Westerville North High School

Bracken’s and Schaublin’s innovative teaching idea, “The Bath Bombs Project,” is an interdisciplinary project focused on teaching students how to produce, market and sell a product to the public. The students will develop a product called bath bombs, which are hard-packed mixtures of dry ingredients that effervesce when wet and are used to add essential oils, scent and color to bathwater. The project will engage the talents of high school students from multiple courses. Chemistry students will first apply their knowledge to develop a refreshing aromatic bathing experience. Art students will then design a logo that will be featured on product labels and advertisements, while digital photography students capture images of the soap products that will be sold online. Business students will then be responsible for developing the marketing strategy to sell the bath bombs to local businesses and online consumers. Bracken and Schaublin hope this project will teach their students that multiple talents and skills are necessary to operate a successful business.

Emily Roewer (2016)

Kings Mills, OH
J.F. Burns Elementary School

Roewer’s innovative teaching idea, “Growing Up, Dreaming Big,” is focused on getting students outside to learn about nature. With an addition to a vertical garden, Woolly Pocket garden planters would be purchased to hang on metal fencing. The creation of this garden on a metal fence in the center of our school courtyard would also support a learning literacy theme of seeing potential in unlikely places and viewing a world full of possibilities. First graders would have the opportunity to garden in a low maintenance environment and take care of growing vegetables, thus encouraging healthy nutrition by exposing students to unique vegetables. Ultimately, this project gives students ownership in beautifying an unused and unattractive location on the J.F. Burns Elementary School grounds.