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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Janice Hornsby (2016)

Axtell, TX
Axtell Independent School District High School

Hornsby’s innovative teaching idea, “iPads in Science,” is focused on leveraging technology to improve learning outcomes for students studying chemistry and physics. Axtell High School, a small, rural school in Texas, has many students who do not have the financial resources to purchase expensive devices, like Apple iPads, to help enhance their learning experience. Hornsby will purchase four to five Apple iPads to be shared in a lab setting. The students will use the Apple iPads to take pictures, record videos and create digital lab reports. By pairing technology with classroom instruction, Hornsby hopes the program will help bring to life complex science topics and encourage greater collaboration among students.

Emily Bain, Penné Liefer, Stanya Castillo, Mary Ann Maxwell, Deborah Wallace, Todd McBride and Angela Green (2016)

Bastrop, TX
Bastrop School District Elementary Schools

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “All Hands On STEM!”, is focused on expanding access to cross-curricular, engaging STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) materials and curricula to all students in the district. The team will create and manage themed Digital Learning/STEM centered kits that schools can check out throughout the school year. These kits will include all necessary materials and curriculum integration ideas and examples, and the Curriculum and Instructions department will provide ongoing training to support best practices and integration. The team hopes the program will increase achievement, reduce the access gap, and prepare and inspire students for their post-graduation reality.

Joey Cobb, Sandy Muzquiz and Jacob Bartok (2016)

Plano, TX
Meadows Elementary School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Outdoor Garden Classroom,” is focused on providing a total of three outdoor classrooms for the Meadows Elementary School garden. Students involved in the program will have an opportunity to learn through a hands-on teaching approach. The team’s goal is for this approach to help keep students engaged in the learning process, ultimately leading to a greater understanding and retention of the lessons. Students will also have access to a covered outdoor area in the garden and teachers will be able to utilize the garden to help teach classes related to healthy eating, gardening, composting, math, science, language arts, reading, and more. The hot climate in Texas currently prevents classes from using the garden during all seasons and especially during hot afternoons. By providing a shaded area for lessons, the garden will now be accessible year-round and all day.

Tamara Kumar (2016)

Layton, UT
Lincoln Elementary School

Kumar’s innovative teaching idea, “Students Making the Difference,” is focused on using technology to help expand her students’ worldview and become more socially aware. Through the use of text messages and Face Time video conversations, Kumar’s sixth-grade class will interact with refugee students at another school. Her students will learn what it is like to be a refugee, and then use this knowledge to create a service project to help them. Kumar’s students will document everything using pictures and video. As a culminating activity, her sixth-grade students will then create a presentation of what they learned and what they did to help. Kumar’s goal is to meet technology, presentation and social studies standards, while giving her students the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world.

Lianna Moss-Everhart and Kara Ednie (2016)

Mechanicsville, VA
Rural Point Elementary School

Moss-Everhart and Ednie’s innovative teaching idea, “Roadrunner Broadcast Center,” is focused on creating a Roadrunner News Broadcast Center at Rural Point Elementary School. To increase the sense of community and school pride, the new program will be designed completely by students. This hands-on experience will give students the opportunity to learn about script writing, reporting, camera work, sound, and lighting. This program also falls into the curriculum by incorporating Library Media and English SOLs related to media messages into the news show. 

Robin Wozny (2016)

Bradford, VT
Oxbow High School

Wozny’s innovative teaching idea, “Project Based Learning,” is focused on showing students how math can be used in the real world. During the first quarter, students complete a virtual store project, where each student opens up their own “virtual” business and works with percentages, percent markups, and integers to develop an area of interest into a business. The second quarter uses common investigation tools involving math to solve a mystery, such as determining the speed of a car from a skid mark or the size of a suspect from their shoe size. Third quarter is used to build a town to scale, using geometry to build a scaled version of their own house, followed by the fourth quarter, where students put together a census book by collecting data from a random sample of the students in our school. They will collect household information about technology use, size of the household, common family activities and education to end with a final presentation to their school board about the data collected. Wozny hopes this program will not only help students effectively understand math, but will also enhance their ability to communicate about the math they do.

Erica Walter (2016)

Tacoma, WA
Morris E. Ford Middle School

Walter’s innovative teaching idea, “Innovate in Ford’s Makerspace,” is focused on creating a makerspace in the Morris E. Ford Middle School library, enabling students to learn 21st century creative skills. A makerspace is known as an innovative, ‘do-it-yourself’ space where students can gather to create, invent, and learn. With the space at Morris E. Ford Middle School, students in grades six through eight will have access to resources, materials, and the technology necessary to engage in rich learning opportunities. The space will provide an interest-based learning environment for students to explore, design, innovate, and collaborate with one another while using a variety of technologies and tools. These opportunities will inspire creativity, allowing for open-ended exploration to design and create projects such as 3D prints, simple machines, as well as basic arts and crafts. The makerspace will create a culture of innovation within the library embracing the idea of a holistic approach to developing eco-literacy, while teaching students the importance of a growth mindset.

Charles Westby (2016)

Fort Atkinson, WI
Fort Atkinson High School

Westby’s innovative teaching idea, “Beyond Blinky Lights,” is focused on investigating the world of digital electronics and computer programming using the Arduino microcontroller interface. Students will learn the basics of digital electronics such as Boolean logic, logic gates, simple binary code and timing circuits in addition to programming an Arduino. They will use the tutorials in an Arduino development kit to learn the code that makes the Arduino microcontroller respond to inputs. Microcontrollers are omnipresent, helping control everything from your car to your cellphone. The unique activities will allow students freedom to explore creations of their choice while at the same time creating confidence in using these devices. Through necessity and design, students will also learn how to reuse and re-purpose items as they "hack" various electronics equipment for parts.

Roger King and Doug Burge (2016)

Holmen, WI
Holmen High School

King and Burge’s innovative teaching idea, “Greening Up Math,” is focused on building a greenhouse setting, in the form of a lab, that will engage students in challenging projects, enable them to solve problems, and allow them to discover new types of learning. The lab will provide real context for mathematical concepts and skills to be uncovered through observation and inquiry – allowing students to comprehend math concepts better than in the current delivery of the curriculum. The goal, following the course, is for students to receive a graduation credit that is recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. King and Burge believe that this program will create a learning environment that fosters the development of meaningful collaboration and problem solving.

Pamela Stegall, Dr. Carrie Marcum, Jana Woofter, Tonya Fleming, Ashley Barker, Aaron Clark, Karla Hilliard, Kelsey Fry, Robert Howard and Natasha Fields (2016)

Martinsburg, WV
Spring Mills High School

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Full STEAM Ahead!”, is focused on engaging students currently enrolled in computer programming courses. Those involved with Spring Mills High School’s newly formed STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Academy as well as those enrolled in core classes will participate. The program will develop cross-curricular activities and projects connecting the use of the programmable drones. Students involved in the program will experience hands-on activities designed to peak their interest in STEM related fields of study and employment. Competitive student robotic teams will also be formed to allow students to expand their skills beyond the classroom.