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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Nancy Kunsman (2016)

Gore, OK
Gore High School

Kunsman’s innovative teaching idea, “Illuminated Manuscripts,” is focused on teaching about life before electronics through historical significance, artistic elements, and a creative process. Students will study illuminated manuscripts, learn how scribes use imagery and symbols to guide their readers, and understand the painstaking process of bookmaking prior to mass production. The project is also designed to showcase student writing by letting students create, write, and illustrate their own illuminated manuscripts. Their final draft will be shown in a community art/literature show. At the end, a digital book version of the compiled manuscripts will be submitted to the school library.

Robert Doherty (2016)

Hermiston, OR
Armand Larive Middle School

Doherty’s innovative teaching idea, “Video News Production – ALTV,” is focused on offering a video news class for students at the Armand Larive Middle School. Students involved in the program will have an opportunity to prepare news stories, write scripts, and shoot interviews. The objective of the program is to provide students with the technological skills needed for video production in the 21st century, as well as focus on their writing and speaking skills. Through the use of sophisticated video editing software, students will learn how to edit video interviews, clips, and overlay voice-overs and compile those elements into a compelling story – just as it is done in a professional newsroom. In a class of 30 students, several computers with video editing software will provide opportunities for all students to participate in producing and finalizing their own news projects for Armand Larive Middle School’s TV program.

Carole Wright (2016)

Ligonier, PA
Valley School of Ligonier

Wright’s innovative teaching idea, “Wind Turbine Challenge,” is focused on culminating with a “Wind Summit,” an event where students from Valley School of Ligonier and surrounding schools will compete with wind turbines, learn together, and debate the future of wind power in the region and around the world. Students involved in this program will explore wind from all angles with a central focus on its ability to provide us with renewable energy. To keep the connection to the topic rich and meaningful, students will construct wind turbines, experiment with design modifications, explore the history of wind, learn the science of wind creation, and investigate how wind has been a component of human development and existence over time.

Adam Gebhardt and Alexandra Crouse (2016)

Jefferson Hills, PA
Jefferson Elementary School

Gebhardt’s and Crouse’s innovative teaching idea, “ArtEd21: Art in 3D,” is focused on modernizing the art education curriculum at Jefferson Elementary School. Historically, students were taught art education using traditional materials like yarn, felt and construction paper. However, with technology opening new avenues for creative design, Gebhardt and Crouse will use 3D modeling and printing to help students express their full creative potential. The students will learn about digital design, functionality, aesthetics and computer modeling as they invent, create and produce using 3D printers. This program is designed to bridge the gap between art, mathematics and science as students challenge themselves to explore new creative possibilities.

Laura Silks (2016)

Newtown, PA
Sol Feinstone Elementary School

Silks’ innovative teaching idea, “Mobile Makerspace,” is focused on creating a mobile makerspace in the Sol Feinstone Elementary School library, complete with 3D printers, electronic parts, updated computers, cameras, software, building materials, and recyclables. Makerspaces are known to be a creative, ‘do-it-yourself’ space where students can gather to create, invent, and learn. Students involved in the use of the “Mobile Makerspace” will be able to interact, create and invent collaboratively with their classmates through the use of everyday supplies, new technology, and computer software. Teachers will also have an opportunity to rent material kits and reserve the space in order to enhance their curriculum activities, specifically for those students already scheduled for computer lab technology. As the leader of the project, Silks will provide professional development opportunities for teachers to learn how to use the new technology and will encourage teachers to lead specialized after school club activities for the students.

Amy Mello Messenger and Shana Kennedy (2016)

Providence , RI
Charles Fortes Elementary School

Messenger’s and Kennedy’s innovative teaching idea, “Resilient Kids,” is focused on highlighting the importance of mindfulness in children’s lives to help manage emotional and social challenges. Mindfulness, which means being completely in the moment and fully emotionally aware, is critical to ensuring that students are engaged throughout the day according to Messenger and Kennedy. The school will bring in outside professionals to directly share their expertise with the students, and will train teachers to become experts in practices and techniques to improve mindfulness. The program centers on the social and emotional wellbeing of some of the youngest children in the Providence Public School System, and will be fully implemented within the school day.  Both teachers hope that by developing these strategies, students will gain the skills to stay engaged as young adults, despite the many challenges they face.

Kerise Broome (2016)

Charleston, SC
James Island Charter High School

Broome’s innovative teaching idea, “The Amazing Race,” is focused on motivating students to become better writers by encouraging them to collaborate with their classmates. The project is a semester-long writing simulation and students will be grouped together based on their learning needs. Students will work in teams throughout the semester to collaborate, revise and edit what they write using classroom Chromebooks. Each week a new “challenge” will be incorporated to teach students a different skill. Each member of their team will then integrate this new learning into their writing assignment for the week. By using the classroom Chromebooks and Google documents, Broome hopes students will be able to improve and easily share their writing by partnering with their classmates.

Paula Evans (2016)

Simpsonville, SC
Hillcrest Middle School

Evans’ innovative teaching idea, “Energy STEAM Project,” is a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) problem-based learning project focused on increasing students’ knowledge of heat transfer and solar passive energy in different environments. Initially, as part of the program, students will be challenged with designing a nest, virtually, for a penguin whose habitat is being threatened. Once they have understood how heat transfers in that habitat, they will have the opportunity to design an energy efficient classroom or school. Teachers will use the findings from their experimental designs to determine how they can reduce energy costs in Hillcrest Middle School, so that they can dedicate those savings to other programs that can benefit the students. In addition to the practical use of the lab results, Evans believes students will learn teamwork and collaboration, improve their multi-media presentation and public speaking skills, and increase their ability to innovate to solve real-life problems.

Thomas Merriman (2016)

Beresford, SD
Beresford High School

Merriman’s innovative teaching idea, “Enhancing Creativity,” is focused on inspiring creativity throughout the school curriculum by providing technology to use within the classrooms. The grant money will be used to purchase a 3D printer and any necessary software that will be implemented into classrooms and extracurricular classes, including Theatre, Shop, Science Club and Audio-Visual Productions Club. The technology will allow students to build models for sets, design projects for storytelling, and create representations of innovative ideas and inventions. Merriman’s goal is to provide 3D printing capabilities for all students and staff to build relationships within the school and provide endless possibilities to explore.

Jo Ann Matthews and Frankie Bunner (2016)

Memphis , TN
Douglas K-8 Optional School

Matthews’ and Bunner’s innovative teaching idea, “By The Book,” is focused on creating compelling picture book stories for young students at Douglass K-8 Optional School. While art students use their background and class knowledge to develop sketches for the illustrations, English/language arts students will concentrate on creating a story line that young students find captivating. The collaboration between English and art students will teach them how to share a vision and develop their view of the writing/illustration process. Additionally, students will pass on their book to a student who is learning to read. The created book will be something that will allow the students' work to go on for years as the Pre-K students grow up reading and re-reading the book time and time again.