Kapa‘au Teacher Awarded Unsung Heroes Grant

Listen to this Article
2 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

Kapa‘au Teacher Awarded Unsung Heroes Grant

Kapa‘au teacher awarded Voya Unsung Heroes grant. Courtesy photo.

Hawai‘i Island educator Kayla Sinotte is a 2016 Voya Unsung Heroes award recipient.

The Kohala Elementary School teacher won a $2,000 grant for her idea, “Kohala Elementary School Discovery Garden.”

The Voya Unsung Heroes program brings creative education ideas into existence by awarding grants to honor K–12 educators, across the United States, for their innovative teaching. The recipients are chosen for their ingenious educational projects, creative teaching techniques, and their capability to have a positive impact on their students.


Voya Financial Inc. is a Fortune 500 company, which provides retirement plans for educators all over the country.

This year Voya Unsung Heroes program celebrates their 20th anniversary. Over 2,000 educators across the nation have been awarded upwards of $5 million since 1996.

“At Voya, we not only have the privilege of helping teachers plan for their retirement, we also have this unique opportunity to help them dream big in the classroom and inspire their students to do the same,” said Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets at Voya Financial. “We are proud to recognize those exceptional teachers who work every day to raise the bar of their profession and find new ways to spark a love of learning.”


Discovery Garden, includes teaching styles that support and encourage an approach encompassing the entire child. Designed in 40-minute sessions, each class teaches nutrition and wellness, agricultural sustainability, and STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The school garden setting will be used to teach Pono, the Hawaiian concept of righteous behavior. In addition, the school garden will serve as a reliable source of food for the students’ families and provide an opportunity to learn about proper health and nutrition.

Lavallee added, “As we help Americans plan, invest and protect their savings to build a secure financial future, we’re honored to help Kayla Sinotte go above and beyond to prepare her students for their own bright future.”

Out of the 100 finalists, Sinotte is the only State of Hawai‘i educator to win this year. There were over 1,350 applicants this year. Voya Financial also awards the top three finalists with an additional $5,000, $10,000, or $25,000. Sinotte is now in the running with the other finalists for one of these top three awards.


The impact of Voya on students and their teachers can be seen in Video testimonials sent in by winners from the last 20 years. In addition, Voya tracked concepts and trends in the education system which can be seen in the infographic, Voya Highlights 20 Years of Teaching Trends.

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

Applications for the 2017 Voya Unsung Heroes awards are currently being accepted through the website until April 30, 2017.

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments