Deanna Self and Erika Fuentes receive $2,000 grant

Two George Elementary School staff members were the only educators in Arkansas to receive a $2,000 grant for their innovative practices.

Deanna Self, instructional facilitator, and Erika Fuentes, counselor, received the grant through the Voya Financial Unsung Heroes award competition, according to a Voya Financial press release.

"Educators like Deanna and Erika greatly influence and shape our nation's future leaders,” said Angela Harrell, Voya’s chief diversity and corporate responsibility officer and president. "Their creative teaching methods and innovative thinking inspire and motivate students to reach new heights."

Self and Fuentes received the grant in recognition of the teaching idea “Budgeting Behavior Points,” which focuses on reinforcing positive behavior among students and creating a respectful, responsible environment.

The program gives students the opportunity to earn points through a free online app, "Dojo Behavior Management System." Students can purchase items from the school store with their earned points.

Points can be earned in any school setting, including while on the bus.

In addition to supporting a positive environment, this program provides real-life economic and financial experience. Students keep track of their points and budget them to buy items they want. Items range from physical fitness equipment to items that promote creativity and art. Social and emotional or sensory tools, such as fidget spinners, stuffed animals, pop toys and Rubik’s Cubes, are available as well.

The Unsung Heroes program has awarded grants to K-12 educators in the United States for 26 years to honor their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects and their ability to positively influence the children they teach, according to the release. Voya has awarded more than $5.9 million in support of educators through this nationwide program since its inception.

Self and Fuentes were selected from a group of applicants from schools across the United States. They are among 50 winners in the nation to receive the $2,000 award to help fund and bring their programs to life.

Both are now eligible to 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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