Natasha Sheldon, a teacher at Donaldsonville Primary School in Donaldsonville, La., has received a $2,000 grant as part of the 2017 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 ability to positively influence their students. For more than 20 years, the program has awarded over $5 million in grants to more than 2,000 educators across the United States.

“At Voya, we are proud to recognize the many teachers who go above and beyond to inspire a love of learning in their classrooms,” said Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets at Voya Financial. “Understanding that we all learn differently, these teachers have developed unique programs to engage the minds of each and every student. This aligns with our desire to help all Americans prepare for their unique financial futures. We are honored to empower Natasha Sheldon to continue to impact the lives of young people who will one day be the future leaders of our communities.”

Sheldon’s innovative teaching idea, “Digital Storytelling Unit,” focuses on addressing the deficits in the student population’s reading ability, oral language development, background knowledge, and access to books, through interactive and engaging digital storytelling. The Voya grant will provide the resources needed to offer students multiple technology devices for the use of digital storytelling, including tablets, computers, and computer programs and software. Sheldon believes that through exposure to a variety of shared reading resources, students will be provided the tools necessary to build listening comprehension, character analysis, story elements, and writing skills.

Selected from a group of more than 1,200 applicants, Sheldon is one of only 100 winners across the country who will receive this 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.

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