Queen Creek teacher LaFawn Berry awarded $2,000 for her innovative program

LaFawn Berry

LaFawn Berry, a teacher at Gateway Polytechnic Academy in Queen Creek, has received a $2,000 grant as part of Voya Financial Inc.’s unsung heroes awards competition.

The school at 5149 S. Signal Butte Road in Mesa is in the Queen Creek Unified School District.

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 ability to positively influence their students. For more than 20 years, the program has awarded more than $5 million in grants to more than 2,000 educators across the U.S., according to a release.

Ms. Berry’s innovative teaching idea, “Books and Bots,” focuses on integrating literature and robotics with the use of children’s books to allow students to program robots for certain tasks.

Students involved in the project read one of two books, dependent on their grade level. The reading pauses in strategic places for a science and technology activity, according to the release.

Students learn how to draw scientifically, program a robot to move on command, follow specified routines and paths and test different surfaces.

According to Ms. Berry, the Voya grant will allow for the purchase of necessary project elements, giving students an opportunity to connect reading and science in a unique and engaging way. By using robots to solve the problems it will build critical thinking skills while using a problem-based learning model, according to the release.

“Our unsung heroes program continues to recognize teachers who go above and beyond to inspire today’s students in the classroom,” Heather Lavallee, president of tax-exempt markets at Voya Financial, said in the release.

“We are proud to honor teachers like LaFawn Berry whose inspiring program is making a difference in the lives of young people. This commitment and passion for teaching closely aligns with our focus at Voya on helping all Americans prepare for their unique financial futures,” she said.

Selected from a group of more than 1,200 applicants, Ms. Berry is one of 100 winners across the country who will receive the award. In addition, she will compete with other finalists for one of the top three prizes — an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 from Voya Financial, according to the release.

To learn more about winning projects, visit Voya.com/UnsungHeroes. Applications for the 2019 Voya Unsung Heroes awards are being accepted through the website until April 30.

Voya provides workplace retirement solutions, including savings plans for K-12 educators, according to the release.

The Queen Creek Independent is mailed each month to 35,000 homes.

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