Recognition of Teachers Who Have Inspired Student Success
Voya Unsung Heroes Awards Program, sponsored by Voya Financial, provides grants to K–12 educators using new methods and techniques that improve learning. Each year 100 educators are selected to receive a grant to help fund their innovative class projects. The top three projects are chosen to receive additional funding. All awards must be used to further projects within the school or school system. Applicants must be full-time educators, teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, or classified staff with effective projects that improve student learning, and must work in an accredited K–12 public or private school located in the US. Each of the 100 finalists will receive an award of $2,000. At least one award will be granted in each of the 50 United States, provided one or more qualified applications are received from each state. Of the 100 finalists, three will be selected for additional financial awards. The first-place winner will receive a bonus of $25,000; second-place, a bonus of $10,000; and third-place, a bonus of $5,000.
My colleague and I recently formed a bilingual parent group to strengthen our relationship with our Spanish speaking families. Parents repeatedly explained that the language barrier caused them to feel that they did not have a voice. Each parent expressed a desire to feel more connected to our school. Hearing this made me think, “How can we give a voice to the voiceless in our schools?” To overcome this barrier, we brought families together to record a video. Parents shared the importance of education in their families and then expressed what they wished teachers knew about them. The video has made such a strong impact in our community that it is now shown throughout Wisconsin.
I have always been passionate about reaching the student that no one else feels they can reach or the student that is typically considered the underdog. I began to lose interest in school when I was in 7th grade. I could study and do the work if I put my mind to it, but I lost motivation quickly. I did not get that motivation back until I was a junior in college. I finally realized that I needed to get my life together. I feel like there are so many students out there like me who are lost and looking for direction. I want to be the teacher I needed at that point in my life. I wasn’t stupid, but I needed guidance to reach my full potential. Having a relationship with your students and knowing them well enough to recognize and respond to their needs is so important.
“I can’t do this, Ms. Boomsma. I just can’t.” A student of mine said this to me while we worked in the back of the room. “Kimberly can, but that’s because she’s just smarter at this kind of stuff than me.”
“You are smart! You can do anything! We’ll keep trying and working!” I said with determination.