By Scott Halasz
CEDARVILLE — A quartet of innovative Cedarville High School teachers thought they were being honored for just being among 100 finalists in a national contest.
The teachers thought wrong.
Shea Havens-White, Grant Rogers, Jason Siwek and Angela Yake actually were named second-place winners of the Unsung Heroes program and received a $12,000 grant in a surprise announcement made Thursday by Voya Financial officials. Voya, which provides retirement plans for educators, awards grants to K-12 teachers nationwide to honor their unique teaching methods, creative educational projects, and their ability to positively influence the children they teach.
The Cedarville teachers entered their project, “No Holds Barred,” and were named finalists early last month. Finalists receive $2,000 and then move on to compete for an additional top-three prize of $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000. They had no idea they finished second.
“Definitely fooled us,” Havens-White said. “I really didn’t believe it with 1,400 applicants. I kind of thought I was going to pass out for a moment.”
The teachers’ idea, “No Holds Barred,” is focused on building a cohesive department where business, science, and technology classes work together to create a program that requires students to break out of their bubble to build, design, and sell products of their own design. Students involved in this new and unique program will engage in meaningful project-based learning experiences, encourage students in interdisciplinary learning, and motivate their peers to think as scientists, entrepreneurs and artists. The students will begin by learning the basics of hands-on entrepreneurship and business management as they form their own small business.
By selling the products that they create on the school’s dedicated e-commerce website, students’ learning experiences will become an actual commodity.
“They teach the kids to become entrepreneurs and basically build their own business,” said Voya Regional Vice-President Terry Harrell. “What makes that unique is that its so hand-on and out of the box from traditional classrooms. That’s certainly what got my attention.”
The announcement was made during an all-school assembly, complete with the school’s pep band playing before and after. Students roared in appreciation.
“It was inspiring to see that,” Siwek said. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without them.”
The grant will allow the teachers to purchase the equipment needed for the star-up business including iPads, a laser cuter and other tools required for a 3D printer.
“We are incredibly proud of (the teachers),” Cedarville Principal Chad Haemmerle said. “No Holds Barred gives our students a chance to think outside the box, while exploring their business and entrepreneurial skills. We are delighted to give this exciting and valuable learning opportunity to the students.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.