Mr. Douglas Peters, Regional Vice President, Voya Financial Advisors, Inc., far right, visited Holy Cross High School to present Miss Kimberly Mecir, center, with her award and is shown with Mr. Benjamin Tolerico, principal, Holy Cross High School, far left, and Miss Mecir’s second period students.

DUNMORE, PA — Miss Kimberly Mecir, an educator at Holy Cross High School, is one of only four teachers in Pennsylvania being recognized with a 2019 Voya Financial Unsung Heroes Grant for Innovative Teaching.

Selected from a group of more than 650 applicants, Mecir will receive $2,000 to bring one of her educational ideas to life.

Mecir’s innovative teaching idea, “Mission to Planet X,” focuses on increasing student engagement and achievement in biology through a story-driven experience that challenges students to use creativity, problem-solving and biology knowledge to uncover signs of life on an “alien plant.” After learning scientific method, biochemistry, 3D design and coding through a series of lessons and labs, students will be tasked with the mission of designing and 3D printing fins for a rocket that will launch a rover to the planet. It is the hope that this project helps students connect to biology content by framing it in a real-life research area of astrobiology as well as learn future-ready skills of 3D design, coding and critical thinking.

Since 1996, the Voya Unsung Heroes program has awarded more than $5 million to help the nation’s educators turn innovative teaching ideas into reality. Grants are available to K-12 educators nationwide to honor innovative teaching methods and creative educational projects that have the ability to positively influence children.

“The program continues to be a catalyst for innovative learning. It provides educators with an opportunity to make an impact in their community, inspire their students and be recognized for their creative teaching ideas,” Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets for Voya’s Retirement business said. “We’re honored to help Kimberly Mecir go above and beyond to prepare our leaders of tomorrow for their own successful futures.”

In additional to the grant Mecir has already won, 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.