Selected from a group of more than 1,200 applicants, Pitts is one of only 100 winners across the country who will receive this award to help fund and bring her program to life.

Since 1996, the Voya Unsung Heroes program has awarded more than $5 million to help the nation’s educators turn creative teaching ideas into reality.

Voya Financial, Inc., a leading provider of workplace retirement solutions including savings plans for K-12 educators, announced today that Stacy Pitts, a teacher at Hawthorn Elementary School in Camdenton has received a $2,000 grant as part of the company’s 2017 Voya Unsung Heroes awards competition.

Pitts’ innovative teaching idea, “Cultivating Compassion,” focuses on making empathy and compassion a priority in all aspects of learning by providing continuous and meaningful opportunities for students to develop empathy and compassion while relating to others.

The Voya grant will enable the school to purchase materials that will expose students to texts and other learning opportunities centered on understanding compassion and empathy. Pitts believes this approach triggers thought, unlocks memories, and creates a community that is safe for students to tell their own stories. By making compassion a priority in all aspects of learning, the project provides rich learning opportunities that begin in the classroom, extend into the school and community, and reach out into the world.

Selected from a group of more than 1,200 applicants, Pitts 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.

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 Stacy Pitts to continue to impact the lives of young people who will one day be the future leaders of our communities.”