First Flight Middle School teacher’s innovative program gets $2,000 boost

Published 4:15 pm Thursday, October 6, 2022

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Voya Financial, Inc. has announced that AJ Adams, a teacher at First Flight Middle School in Kill Devil Hills, has received a $2,000 grant as part of the company’s 2022 Unsung Heroes awards competition. Adams is the only winner in the entire state of North Carolina.

“I’m proud that I received this grant because it has brought positive attention to the work my students have created,” Adams said.

For 26 years, the Voya Unsung Heroes program has awarded grants to K-12 educators in the United States to honor their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects and their ability to positively influence the children they teach. Since the program’s inception, Voya has awarded more than $5.9 million in support of educators through this nationwide program.

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“Educators like AJ greatly influence and shape our nation’s future leaders,” said Angela Harrell, Voya’s chief diversity and corporate responsibility officer and president, Voya Foundation. “Their creative teaching methods and innovative thinking inspire and motivate students to reach new heights. For 26 years, through Voya Unsung Heroes and other education-oriented programs, we have supported educators who go above and beyond to enrich the lives of their students.”

Adams’ innovative teaching idea – “Student Produced Announcements” – will use the Voya Unsung Heroes grant to purchase equipment to support the video production of school-wide announcements and activities by students. An iPad and a compatible teleprompter will be purchased so that the students’ productions are more professional. The student-produced announcements will include promoting local events with commercial-style segments; raising awareness about community issues with public service announcement-style segments; promoting literacy through their Reading Rainbow book review segments; and celebrating student achievements from around the campus.

“Students experience digital videos through school, YouTube and streaming services – so utilizing that intrinsically engaging medium and allowing opportunities for students to have ownership and authorship of the content they create has been a great conduit for empowering student voice,” Adams said.

Selected from a group of applicants from across the United States, Adams is one of only 50 winners in the nation to receive the $2,000 award to help fund and bring her program to life. In addition, she 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.

“I was overjoyed to be awarded a grant in a national competition that also makes me a finalist for a possible bonus award,” Adams said when she learned she had been selected as a winner.

To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit the Unsung Heroes website.

Unsung Heroes is part of Voya Foundation’s signature program, Voya Teacher Voices, that focuses on empowering teachers to become leaders by promoting the teaching career, recognizing high-achieving educators, providing training opportunities and offering financial support to achieve their goals.