NORTH WINDHAM, Conn. (WTNH) — They’re the only teachers across Connecticut getting recognized for their work that’s encouraging STEM and urban farming.

Nicole Bay, the STEM coordinator at Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy, and Christian Kollegger, an 8th-grade language arts teacher at the school, are now getting national recognition for an idea that was a year in the making: teaching urban farming to their students and giving them a hands-on experience.

“We are so honored and so excited to be recognized for this initiative,” Bay said.

For the past 50 years, Voya Financial has been running an annual nationwide Unsung Heroes program, awarding grant money to educators with innovative teaching ideas.

Bay and Kollegger were recognized as one of 50 for their urban farming initiative and just last week announced as the program’s first-place winner.

“Then all of a sudden we got recognition for it and when we found out we were the only school to be recognized and the only two teachers with a program in Connecticut, that really blew us away,” Kollegger said.

From teacher collaboration to the community businesses who stepped up to donate, they are all working together to maximize the learning potential for students here,

Twenty-seven thousand dollars later, they’re excited to take their urban farming to the next level.

“Bring in some indoor gardening, indoor greenhouses, and even the possibility of an outdoor greenhouse,” Bay said.