Two West Alabama teachers have earned a $2,000 grant designed to encourage innovative teaching methods.

Ashley Clary of Greensboro Middle School and Beth Sims of Northside High School in Northport were among 100 winners nationwide in the Unsung Heroes awards program administered by Voya Financial. More than 650 educators applied for the grants, which are available for kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers.

Heather Lavallee, president of tax-exempt markets for Voya’s retirement business, said the Unsung Heroes program is meant to serve as a catalyst for learning.

“Voya handed out its first Unsung Heroes award more than two decades ago as a way to demonstrate its commitment to serving the education community," Lavallee said in a news release. "(Each grant) provides educators with an opportunity to make an impact in their community, inspire their students and be recognized for their creative teaching ideas."

Clary will use the money to fund her “Flying Into 21st Century Math” lesson plan. She hopes to use drones to engage her students and increase their critical thinking skills.

Students will learn to use coding equations and program flight routes for the drones through an app. Clary's proposal says that students will be able to visualize abstract concepts of algebra while using the drones.

Sims will use her grant to implement a "Using Comprehensible Input to Teach Spanish" program in her classroom. The technique focuses on language acquisition instead of memorizing vocabulary lists and grammar rules.

Students will learn how to say the things most relevant to them as they drive the class-tailored lessons and the teacher serves as a facilitator. Because the content is relevant to them, the students will be invested in learning Spanish more quickly. 

Clary and Sims 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.