ING Unsung Heroes® 2013 Award Winners

Congratulations to all of our ING Unsung Heroes winners. Each year, 100 finalists receives $2,000 while three of them are selected as Top Winners to receive additional grants of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000. You can find winners for your state or for a specific year using the controls below.


  • Amy Spurgeon
    Ider School
    Ider, Alabama

    Spurgeon’s winning program idea, “I-Learn with iPad”, will incorporate the use of Apple iPad tablets to students served in the Special Needs Center. They will be used to engage students and increase their understanding of concepts and prepare them for a technology-infused world. Because some students have dexterity issues in maneuvering and manipulating a keyboard on a computer or laptop, as well as when using pencil and paper, the iPad gives them a proven tool that’s easier to use.

  • Shelley McCoy
    Springville Middle School
    Springville, Alabama

    McCoy’s winning program, “iGoGreen”, promotes a paperless, online classroom. It’s designed to be an online classroom where students can email and publish work electronically using Apple iPad technology. The overarching goal is to reduce the use of paper products while learning to collaborate in small groups, problem solve and learn to use current technology. This program not only allows students to enhance their technological skills, but it also helps them understand the importance of protecting the environment and the impact a paperless classroom can make.


  • Jerri Foster
    Ruth Hale Barker Middle School
    Bentonville, Arkansas

    “The Horse Tales Literacy Project”, Foster’s winning program idea, is designed to jumpstart the love of reading by motivating and  inspiring students to read through interacting with horses – the subjects of the books they will read. Starting with the novels, The  Black Stallion and The Black Stallion Returns, students in fourth and fifth grades (respectively) will explore the rich vocabulary and  descriptive language as well as participate in a live horse experience.


  • Candace Doerr
    Sewell Elementary
    Tucson, Arizona

    “Sting-array App”, Doerr’s creative teaching idea, will allow third-grade students to create a new Apple iPad app that promotes multiplication fact fluency. The digital sting-arrays have a series of dots on their backs, arranged into equal groups. Students will then “tag” their tails with the correct multiplication fact corresponding to the array. For example, a sting-array with two groups of three dots becomes tagged as 2x3=6. Students will collaborate just like real marine biologist research teams.

  • Liliana Grijalva
    ASU Preparatory Academy Elementary School
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Grijalva’s innovative teaching idea, “Green Power!”, focuses on helping the third-grade students gain a sense of responsibility for  conserving the planet in their community where there hasn’t been a large emphasis on sustainability efforts. The students will use  technology to communicate what the three Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) mean to them. They will create a documentary on an iPad about  why the three Rs are important to implement.


  • Michael Wing
    Sir Francis Drake High School
    San Anselmo, California

    Wing’s winning program idea, “Plastic Debris on Land and Sea” is inspired by the school’s mission statement, which focuses on developing “global citizens” who can “critically analyze information, pose substantive questions, and communicate effectively.” The 112 ninth and tenth-grade students will make regular patrols collecting, counting, weighing and photographing plastic debris from the 10-mile beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

  • Joseph Reed
    Luther Burbank Middle School
    Burbank, California

    “Dreaming and Learning Drives Luther Students to be Happy Campers!” is the name of Reed’s winning program idea. In collaboration with Warner Bros., Ghostlight Industries and other Burbank community businesses, sixth-through-eighth-grade students will work in teams of five to restore a dilapidated VW Westfalia Camper. Teams will focus on project management, mechanics/electrical and plumbing, alternative energy, graphics, and upholstery/canvas. Once they are done, they will have restored the camper and created the Luther Camp Mobile.

  • Randy Nemeth
    Ophir Elementary
    Newcastle, California

    “The Ophir Ravine: A River Through Time” is Nemeth’s innovative program idea designed to provide a cross-curricular program for fourth-grade students to learn how to plan, engineer, design, and construct a scale model river on the hillside behind their classroom. As a progressive project, year after year scale model structures will be added along the scale model of the Ophir Ravine to create a ‘living timeline’ by each fourth-grade class. The first class will start building a scale model of a native California Indian village along the ravine, followed by one of California’s 21 missions.

  • Scott Mann
    Trabuco Hills High School
    Mission Viejo, California

    Mann’s winning innovative teaching idea is developing a “Financial Literacy Unit” related to credit scores, student loan debt, investments, savings, and taxes. As a teacher of the approximately 300 graduating seniors, he developed a program to help students understand the concept of debt and the challenges of debt.

  • Lori Snyder
    Weizmann Day School
    Pasadena, California

    “Native American Culture Comes Alive!”, Snyder’s winning program idea, is designed to engage the entire student body and faculty to learn about Native American Culture by experiencing it. It is an interdisciplinary curriculum that utilizes a Design By Learning (DBL) approach to improve student learning about Native American culture. Additionally, a school-to-school relationship will be established with Montana’s St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, offering students a cultural exchange with their peers.

  • Ed Hernandez
    Tustin High School
    Tustin, California

    Hernandez’s innovative program idea, “STEM Guitars Project”, is designed to let students learn and apply a variety of STEM subjects in a hands-on, engaging manner. Harnessing their love for music, the program will afford them the opportunity to build a working guitar from scratch. They will use academic principles from physics, math, engineering and design, electronics, material science, manufacturing, and music. The program will show the students how science and math are involved in the design and manufacturing of an instrument.

  • Norton Elementary School
    San Bernardino, California

    “WASTE-FULL Community Garden”, the innovative program idea of Arellano and her colleagues, involves using the school cafeteria’s food waste to create compost  that will be used in planting a community garden. Through the program, students will become aware of how much trash is thrown away and what happens to it after it is collected.  They will find out what happens at sanitary landfills and what type of trash is discarded the most.

  • Aaron Vanderwerff
    Lighthouse Community Charter School
    Oakland, California

    Vanderwerff’s innovative teaching idea, “Lighthouse Creation Studio”, is designed to help students, ages five through 19, learn and apply  STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) skills to real-world problems and ideas in new and innovative ways. Older students  will learn how to use conventional hand and power tools and computer-aided design (CAD) to design parts and test assembly. The younger  students will learn to make their ideas a reality by using age-appropriate materials and programming kits.

  • Twila Cancilla
    Bear Creek High School
    Stockton, California

    “Re-Bicycle: Helping the Earth and Others”, Cancilla and her colleagues’ innovative teaching idea, is designed to have students, working  collaboratively, divert waste from landfills by refurbishing found and discarded bicycles. The bikes will be refurbished in automotive  and engineering elective classes, so that the bicycles can then be donated to local public and private agencies to meet the needs in the  local community. Students will integrate their science, English and math skills as they work on refurbishing the bikes.

  • Kim Anderson
    Thomas Jefferson Elementary School
    Burbank, California

    “Hummingbird Garden Buddies”, Anderson’s innovative project, pairs first and fifth-grade students together to create a beautiful  hummingbird haven in an area of the school that is overgrown and neglected. Together, the students, along with parent volunteers and  teachers, will transform a 600-square-foot plot into a landscaped area suitable for attracting hummingbirds. The goal is to bring the  natural world to life with active involvement by the students.

  • Maritess Works
    Captain Leland Norton Elementary
    San Bernardino City, California

    Works’ winning program, “747 Action News Broadcasting Center”, will be the first in the district’s student-run broadcasting center. The current low-tech broadcasting center has not piqued students’ eagerness to learn. With the new broadcasting center, students will prepare newscasts for morning news, as well as feature stories and breaking news. Some students also will be chosen to produce healthy eating shows that will air during lunch hours in the cafeteria.

  • Lighthouse Community Charter School
    Oakland, California

    Lighthouse Creation Studio” is designed to help students, ages five through 19, learn and apply STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) skills to real-world problems and ideas in new and innovative ways.  Older students will learn how to use conventional hand and power tools and computer-aided design (CAD) to design parts and test assembly.  The younger students will learn to make their ideas a reality by using age-appropriate materials and programming kits.  Vanderwerff has found that students are motivated by their own ideas while being encouraged by mentors,


  • Ali Meyers
    Evergreen High School
    Evergreen, Colorado

    “Creating a Healthy Lifestyle” is Meyers’ creative program idea designed to help students realize the importance of eating right, exercising, and keeping a consistent sleep pattern. The program mixes science and health in a long-term experiment that documents students’ activity, sleep patterns, and diet. Utilizing the Jawbone Up bracelet, along with iPhone and iPad apps, students will document their activities and diet for a week. During that week, they will initially get baseline data such as height, weight, activity level, typical caloric intake, sleep patterns, and overall health.


  • The Foote School
    New Haven, Connecticut

    Sweet’s creative teaching idea, “Hip-Hop Hexameter”, is a unique Latin poetry project that is designed to connect ancient poetry to modern hip-hop music.  The program makes Latin poetry accessible to modern students by connecting the rhythm of ancient poetry to music they like and is part of their daily lives. Students will memorize and recite a piece of Latin poetry over a beat that they create themselves using Apple’s GarageBand software. Because Latin poetry alternates long and short syllables, it has much more in common with hip-hop music versus modern languages.

  • Christa Bolen
    American School for the Deaf
    West Hartford, Connecticut

    “Photoliteracy: Demystifying Writing Through the Deaf Lens”, Bolen’s winning program idea, is a photoliteracy course for high school  students that will relieve some of the fear and uncertainty the students have about writing. For deaf and hard-of-hearing students who  use American Sign Language as their first means of communicating, English is essentially their second language. With the use of student- created visual photography as a stimulus to inspire writing, students’ can enhance their ability to write because of the visual cues.

District Of Columbia

  • Stacy Tedesco
    Thomson Elementary
    Washington, District Of Columbia

    Tedesco’s innovative teaching idea, “Listening for Literacy”, is designed to engage students who are significantly struggling with the use of MP3 players. The established and proven program, founded by three teachers who recognized the need for students to practice their reading and literacy skills at home, provides audio accompaniment to reading materials so that students can independently hear and practice language skills at home. The MP3 players contain sounds, songs, sight words, and leveled text customized to each student.


  • Melissa Blair-Tracy
    Conrad Schools of Science
    Wilmington, Delaware

    “GEOTalks” is Blair’s innovative program idea designed to promote geographic awareness throughout the state and make advanced placement (AP) human geography accessible beyond the public high schools that offer the course in the state. As a way to extend the knowledge beyond her school, Blair will videotape at least 10 expert speakers who will deliver lectures in the AP human geography courses for her ninth through 12th-grade students as part of a speakers series.


  • Kathryn Moore
    Holley-Navarre Middle School
    Navarre, Florida

    “STEM Elective Course” is Moore’s innovative teaching idea. Focused on physics and aeronautics curriculum, the program will provide an opportunity for students to incorporate the skills of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through multiple projects that are designed to challenge middle school students while promoting team work and problem solving in an enthusiastic and creative environment.


  • Kathleen King
    General Ray Davis Middle School
    Stockbridge, Georgia

    “Within Our Own Backyard: Exploring Arabian Mountain National Heritage Trail”, King’s winning program idea, is designed to elevate students’ understanding of the importance of the National Heritage Trail. Students will be exposed to landmarks, history, culture, environments and life along the trail. Through a hands-on approach, visual arts students will have the opportunity to make pottery in the style of the early Creek Native Americans and create large paintings based on their sketches of the Arabian Mountain Heritage Trail.

  • Stone Mountain Middle School
    Stone Mountain, Georgia

    “Pizza School Garden”, Tunson’s innovative teaching idea, will involve creating circular gardens, resembling a pizza, with different  “slices” composed of plants that resemble toppings or include herbs and vegetables that would be found on a pizza like thyme, oregano,  basil, peppers or spinach. A garden is a unique tool to provide a hands-on learning experience that incorporates an emphasis on science.

  • Tyson Harty
    Jasper County High School
    Monticello, Georgia

    “Seeing the Invisible: Student Discovery of the Hidden World of Light and Motion”, Harty’s winning teaching idea, is a science-based  project that will have students investigate “very fast” and “very slow” motion. For the “very fast” motion, they will use consumer and  professional high-speed cameras coupled with force and acceleration sensors, a biomechanics treadmill, and EMG sensors to measure  everyday motion from animal gaits to human sports movements. The same will be done with the “very slow” motion.

  • Rozina Essani and Dana Meyer
    Marietta High School
    Marietta, Georgia

    “Project I-Math” is the innovative program developed by Essani and Meyer. It involves using students’ love for technology and reality  television and turns it into a reality-based activity that focuses on math. The activities require the use of smart devices to read the  digital quick response (QR) code, which is interpreted as a math problem. One activity, for example, is called ‘Mission Control’ where  students are on a mission to another planet when their spaceship malfunctions, leaving them stranded in outer space.


  • Mark Atta
    Mayor Joseph Fern Elementary
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    “Aquaponics System”, Atta’s innovative program idea, utilizes a cutting-edge type of agriculture combining the principles of hydroponics (growing plants in water) with aquaculture (fish farming) in a recirculating system. It results in a self-contained system with nutrients continually being added to the water as fish fertilize the plants, plants remove excess nitrates that can harm the fish, and gravel provides natural filtration for the entire complex. This is similar to the way it occurs in a natural stream or pond.


  • Cathy Scullen
    Indianola Middle School
    Indianola, Iowa

    “Energy Stars”, Scullen’s innovative program idea, is a scientific inquiry project to help students and the community become aware of how they can impact the world around them by looking at their carbon footprint and its possible impact on global climate change. With the ultimate goal of becoming “energy stars”, students will research the global climate change topic, and then create an activity or project that will educate and influence an audience outside the classroom.


  • Nathan Low
    Payette High School
    Payette, Idaho

    Low’s creative program idea, “Metal Arts”, is designed to help with career training for many of the school’s at-risk students. Through the program, student creations developed in the afterschool Metal Arts Design Program will be sold for a profit in order to have more funds for student-supported activities or new equipment to expand programs. The funded software will decrease the time it takes to go from design to cutting – allowing students to simply design and cut – eliminating the extra steps and design failures, making the business truly student run.