Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), a leading provider of retirement plans for educators, announced on Sept. 8 that Matthew Farina, a teacher at Mount Pleasant Elementary School in Wilmington, Del., has received a $2,000 grant as part of the company’s 2016 Voya Unsung Heroes awards competition.
Through the Voya Unsung Heroes program, Voya Financial awards grants to K–12 educators nationwide to honor their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects and their ability to positively influence the children they teach. This year marks the program’s 20th anniversary. Since 1996, it has awarded nearly $5 million in grants to more than 2,000 educators across the United States.
Video testimonials sent in by winners from the past two decades underscore how the Voya Unsung Heroes program has made a significant difference in the lives of these amazing teachers and their students. In looking back at the winning projects from the program’s 20-year history, Voya has also been able to track the popular trends and compelling concepts that have shaped our country’s education system.
“At Voya, we not only have the privilege of helping teachers plan for their retirement, we also have this unique opportunity to help them dream big in the classroom and inspire their students to do the same,” said Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets at Voya Financial. “We are proud to recognize those exceptional teachers who work every day to raise the bar of their profession and find new ways to spark a love of learning. As we help Americans plan, invest and protect their savings to build a secure financial future, we’re honored to help Matthew Farina go above and beyond to prepare his students for their own bright future.”
Farina’s innovative teaching idea, “Exer-Bike to Books Movement Room,” is focused on a fitness-integrated teaching initiative, incorporating exercise into the everyday classroom. According to Farina, studies have shown that physical activity in the daily lives of students has a positive effect on their cognitive skills, attitudes, academic behaviors and achievements. Students involved in the program will have an opportunity to learn while moving. In launching the program, the group will purchase stationary pedal desks to promote a learning movement room for the students by providing fitness and fun in the classroom.
Selected from a group of more than 1,350 applicants, Farina is one of only 100 winners across the country who will receive this award to help fund and bring his program to life. In addition, he will now compete with other finalists for one of the top three prizes—an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 from Voya Financial.
To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit the Voya Unsung Heroes website. Applications for the 2017 Voya Unsung Heroes awards are currently being accepted through the website until April 30, 2017.