ING Recognizes the Most Innovative Educators and Awards $240,000 to U.S. Teachers

September 9, 2004 Atlanta Share: Print Subscribe to Email Alerts

Governor Henry Proclaims Sept. 9 as “Joe Charles” Day in Oklahoma

ING U.S. Financial Services today announced that after a record year of applications and 100 initial $2,000 award winners, Joe Charles, a teacher at Apache High School in Apache, Okla., has been selected to receive the top prize in the ING Unsung Heroes awards program, receiving an additional $25,000 for his "Independent Student Theatre" program. In recognition of Charles’ grand prize award, Gov. Henry has declared today, Sept. 9, 2004, as "Joe Charles" day in Oklahoma.

With no auditorium, $170/year in income from the school’s soda machine, and having to rely on personal means to provide all necessary materials, labor and time to work on the project after school and on weekends, the students, with the help of Charles, secured a sizable class room and the permission to transform it into a theater. Complete with seating for 70 people, an elevated stage, dressing room, wardrobe and property storage, and technical control room, the Apache High School Drama Group now presents two full productions each year.

"Mr. Charles literally started our school’s drama department from scratch," said Principal Mike Zurline. "He’s dedicated tons of his own time after school and in the evenings to making our theater a reality. Students say Mr. Charles’ English classes are tough and sometimes even dreaded, but they love him as a teacher. He truly challenges his students to learn, and they end up very well prepared for college and life after high school."

The ING Unsung Heroes awards program recognizes K-12 educators nationwide for their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects, and ability to make a positive influence on the children they teach. Now in its ninth year, the program has awarded more than $2 million to nearly 900 educators across the United States. This year’s ING Unsung Heroes winners were selected from a group of nearly 1,500 educators, the second-largest number of applicants in program history.

Second and third place 2004 ING Unsung Heroes awards went to:

  • Second place: Theresa Kassuba of Southgate, M.I., for her “Cyber Citizens” project. The project expands community and student opportunities in technology by creating a partnership between high school students and local senior citizens to teach their senior citizen partners how to use computers and the Internet for research, communication and entertainment. Kassuba and Southgate Anderson High School were awarded $12,000.
  • Third place: Lizbeth Alfaro of Conover, N.C., for the “Partners in Print – Learning Partners,” program which helps Spanish-speaking kindergarten through second grade students learn English by providing bilingual reading and math activities for parents and children. Alfaro and Lyle Creek Elementary Glodowski were awarded $7,000.

"This annual award program allows ING to honor many of our nation’s most outstanding teachers while striving to make a difference in the lives of America’s schoolchildren. Often unrecognized for their tireless dedication to our youth, these educators bring fresh ideas to the classroom and go ‘above and beyond’ to improve student learning," said Bill Jasien, senior vice president of ING U.S. Financial Services.

To learn about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit the ING Unsung Heroes Web site at Applications for the 2005 ING Unsung Heroes awards are available by calling 800.537.4180 or emailing

About ING

ING Group is a global financial institution of Dutch origin offering banking, insurance and asset management to more than 60 million private, corporate and institutional clients in more than 50 countries. With a diverse workforce of more than 112,000 people, ING comprises a broad spectrum of prominent companies that increasingly serve their clients under the ING brand.

ING is a leader in providing 403(b) plans to kindergarten through 12th grade educators and other employees of nonprofit organizations in America. In the U.S., ING offers a comprehensive array of financial services to retail and institutional clients that includes retirement plans, mutual funds, managed accounts, alternative investments, direct banking, institutional investment management, annuities, life insurance, employee benefits, financial planning, and reinsurance. Currently, ING holds top-tier rankings in key U.S. markets and serves more than 14 million customers across the nation. For more information, visit