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.


  • Sheila Edstrom
    Adlai E. Stevenson High School
    Lincolnshire, Illinois

    “Kids, Cars, and Kinematics” is Edstrom’s winning program that is designed to bring the description of motion to life through hands-on experience in her physics classes. Through the use of wireless units attached to high-speed remote control cars, the students measure the changes in acceleration, velocity and vertical displacement, and map out the paths taken by the cars through an analysis of the data captured.

  • Michael Soares
    Pontiac Township High School
    Pontiac, Illinois

    “Operation Endangered Species”, Soares’ winning program, is an eight-year endangered species recovery effort to raise and reintroduce mixed-age class Alligator Snapping Turtles (AST) (Macrochelys temminckii) back into their natural, historic habitats in southern Illinois. The genesis of the program began with research Soares read that indicated no ASTs have been detected in Illinois since 1984.

  • Lindsay Kaplan
    Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School
    Chicago, Illinois

    “What’s Bugging You?: An Interactive Insect Unit” is Kaplan and her colleagues’ winning innovative program idea. The comprehensive, six-week unit is designed to introduce kindergarteners to the world of insects through engaging and interactive lessons. Students will study ants, bees, butterflies, ladybugs, and lice – learning their life cycles, their importance on Earth, and the need to preserve their environments. Through songs and gestures, students will first learn the general anatomy of insects.

  • Suzanne Fernandez-Pellon
    Dever Elementary School
    Chicago, Illinois

    Fernandez-Pellon’s innovative program idea, “Your Great Lake”, is designed to help kindergarten and first grade students take ownership of their own learning as well as become the sources of information for learning interactions that happen between the grades. It will bring to life disciplines such as language arts, math, science, and social studies to explore how water is used, especially the water from the Great Lakes, one of the most important freshwater resources on Earth.

  • Christine Pendleton
    YCCS – Community Christian Alternative Academy
    Chicago, Illinois

    Pendleton and Zook’s winning program idea, “Solar Aquaponics”, involves having their students create and build a solar-powered turbine to  eventually power an aquaponics system. Students in the college preparatory courses that have a thematic emphasis on urban agriculture and  ecology will build solar panels using aluminum cans. Student-led agricultural components include creating an aquaponics system involving  1,500 gallons of water with 800 tilapia for year-round production.


  • Frankie Woods McCullough Girls’ Academy
    Gary, Indiana

    Lucas and her colleagues winning program, “Our Educational Garden”, will be student-centered and involve the community. The garden will reflect the interests of the students and incorporate the school’s culture as shaped by students, teachers, parents, administrators, and neighbors. Plans for the garden include using a wide range of decorative flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Students also will make the compost, test the soil and till the ground. They also will be responsible for measuring plant growth, labeling plants, decorating and caring for the garden.

  • Sharon Mang
    Greensburg Community High School
    Greensburg, Indiana

    “Through the Eyes of Margaret and John Bird: The Civil War in Decatur County, Indiana”, Mang’s winning program idea, is designed for her fashion/textiles and housing/interior design students to study the Civil War through the eyes of Margaret and John Bird, residents of Decatur County from 1850-1865. The fashion/textile students will construct and reproduce clothing and a Union quilt. They will collaborate with author Deborah Petite on the effects of the war on the textile industry.

  • Hether Darnel
    Boulevard Elementary School
    Kokomo, Indiana

    “Fit for Life: Inspiring Healthy Choices” is Darnell and Ligocki’s winning program idea that will transform the classroom and schoolyard into a hands-on learning environment where developing healthy lifestyle habits is equally as important as academic achievement. Pedometers will be used as a tool to support and increase daily physical activity. Students will learn self-management skills as they set personal fitness goals. They also will have access to a resource room complete with Dance Dance Revolution equipment, creating additional opportunities for students to be active at school.


  • Cooper Elementary School
    Wichita, Kansas

    “Math in Motion”, the winning program submitted by Folkerts, is a multi-sensory approach to cognitive development, which incorporates physical exercise, stretching, yoga, and cross-body movement. It allows the 300 Kindergarten through fifth-grade students and their math buddies to be physically active while simultaneously learning multiplication facts, place value, addition and subtraction, fractions, and other number concepts.


  • Hickman County Elementary School
    Clinton, Kentucky

    Dowdy’s winning program, “Engineering Einsteins”, is her creative way of engaging nearly 50 fourth-grade students in four specific engineering tasks. They will 1.) Design an effective bird beak to help a model bird meet its needs; 2.) Design a seismograph from everyday items and then test its ability to record a simulated classroom earthquake; 3.) Build a dance pad utilizing electrical circuits that sound a buzzer or flash a light when stepped on; and 4.) Learn how to provide evidence that digital information transmitted and received over distances affects people’s lives.

  • Crittenden County Elementary School
    Marion, Kentucky

    “My SPACE: Sensory Processing and Calming Environment”, McClure’s winning program idea, is a designated classroom to provide specially designed programs for students who need help in developing motor planning and self-regulation skills. It will serve the students who have a variety of disabilities or processing issues that make it difficult for them to participate fully in the general school population 100 percent of their day. Many of the students frequently become over-stimulated and cannot function to their full potential in the classroom.


  • College Oaks Elementary School
    Lake Charles, Louisiana

    “iCan Through iNquiry” is Paul’s innovative program idea designed to foster an inquisitive love for learning in science, mathematics and technology. With the hands-on activity science tubs and themed libraries, students will have an abundance of science tools to produce experiments and explore science across the curriculum. Through a variety of scientific experiments, students will use critical thinking skills, gather information or data, and apply their knowledge universally.


  • Dennett Elementary School
    Plympton, Massachusetts

    “Math Movie Network” is Avery’s innovative program designed to let students share their math success with other students around the world and let them learn from it. Students are front and center in the video segments, allowing them to share directly with others who are watching simple or complex math concepts and how they achieved mathematical success.

  • Archbishop Williams High School
    Braintree, Massachusetts

    “Research Rules!” is Whitehouse’s innovative program idea. It’s designed to give his students the opportunity to pursue advanced topics in biotechnology. Up until now, the independent study project is for the honors freshman biology class. Students have had a rare chance to pursue college-level research in a cutting edge laboratory located on the campus of Boston University School of Medicine. Whitehouse’s “Research Rules!” will help bring state-of-the-art, industry-standard equipment to their own school’s laboratory.

  • Ingrid Roche
    Boston Latin Academy
    Boston, Massachusetts

    “Mapping Our Diverse Communities”, Roche’s innovative program idea, involves the students describing, in their own words and images, what  their communities are like. By collaborating with other students, they will show the cultural variety of their communities through  photography, videography, cartography, and through other forms of technology.


  • Glen Burnie High School
    Glen Burnie, Maryland

    “Art at the Speed of Light” combines the fundamentals of intermediate drawing and painting curriculum with the Bio Medical Allied Health Magnet students’ honors physics curriculum, creating an interdisciplinary pilot course. The program allows students innovative opportunities to explore and study physics phenomena through a visual arts lens. To date, the drawing and painting projects borrow from various photographic styles.

  • Hilarie Hall
    The Woods Academy
    Bethesda, Maryland

    “Rockets and Robots: Becoming Young Engineers” is Hall’s winning program idea. Its aim is to be an energetic and collaborative program for 150 student engineers in first through fourth grades. The students will have the opportunity to build, test, modify, and display numerous structures and simple machines. They will design structures that can soar, rotate, or withstand significant pressure and force. For example, the students will build pipe rollercoasters, create safe and sturdy “cars” for eggs, construct different types of scaled bridges, and design rocket launchers.


  • Caitlin LeClair
    King Middle School
    Portland, Maine

    “Small Acts of Courage”, LeClaire’s creative teaching concept, will involve having 90 seventh-grade students participate in an integrated study of the Civil Rights Movement. By using primary and secondary research sources, students will focus on the years 1954-1964. As a school with a diverse student population, where 32 languages are spoken, they also will discuss how issues of race and background affect the students in their own lives.


  • Robert Thomson
    Sanborn Elementary School
    Ossineke, Michigan

    Thomson’s innovative “Rusty Raiders” program is a student-led research project that is part of the Thunder Bay River Watershed Project. It’s designed to prevent and slow the spread of rusty crayfish into new waters. Rusty crayfish displace native crayfish, reduce the amount and kinds of aquatic plants, decrease the density and variety of invertebrates, and reduce some fish populations. Through the program, students will be able to play a part in the removal of an invasive species and support, sustain, and secure the ecological and economic health of their local fresh water resources.


  • Chaska Middle School West
    Chaska, Minnesota

    “The Next Generation of Music” involves transforming music education from how it has been taught the last 100 years and making it relevant, rigorous and interesting for today’s students.  Typical elective music courses will be overhauled into courses where students perform popular music genres like hip hop and electronica, compose music, produce and record music—all while still l


  • Susan Schriever
    Sacred Heart School
    Valley Park, Missouri

    “Healthy Heart Awareness Program”, Schriever’s innovating teaching idea, is designed to enhance the current physical education program. It supports the existing healthy eating habits program and educates students about the importance of an active lifestyle and a healthy heart rate in addition to the effects of exercise on the heart.  Utilizing a variety of assessment tools – heart rate monitors, pedometers, tracking charts and educational materials – students will learn how to track their physical performance over a period of time.


  • St. Martin Gifted Center
    Ocean Springs, Mississippi

    “Get STEAM-ed Lab” is the name of Havard’s innovative teaching idea. It involves incorporating Art in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum. The STEAM-ed (STEAM Education) Lab will provide second-through-sixth-grade students an opportunity to become innovative and adaptive thinkers. The lab is designed to promote and instill a sense of local and global awareness and responsibility in environmental and civic issues.

  • Deborah Holt
    Long Beach School District
    Long Beach, Mississippi

    “Discovery Imagineers”, Holt’s winning program idea, involves training the students in the intellectually gifted program (Discovery) to  become Discovery Imagineers. Students will use various materials to design bridges, submersibles, and discover ways to clean an oil  spill. They will be immersed in projects that give them the opportunity to develop their understanding of the engineering design process  – defining a problem, generating ideas, selecting a solution, testing the solution(s), creating a design, evaluating the design and  presenting a final design.


  • Justine Alberts
    Kessler Elementary
    Helena, Montana

    Alberts’ innovative program idea is “iLearn While iXL”. It is a multi-faceted approach to increasing student engagement, understanding, and technology literacy. More than 240 kindergarten through fifth-grade students will benefit from her program, allowing them to use Apple iPads to work on math skills, type and turn in written assignments,  share work with their classmates  and  throughout the school district, and ultimately create their own informational book.

  • Billings Senior High School
    Billings, Montana

    McKinney and her colleagues’ innovative teaching idea, “Firing the Imagination – Igniting the Maker Within”, is designed to introduce students to the literature of bestselling author and one of the top writers in modern comics, Neil Gaiman, in preparation for his visit to Billings in February 2014. He will visit Billings as a part of the celebration surrounding the grand opening of the new public library building. Various Gaiman titles will be purchased for each grade level and multiple reading groups of 10 students each will be formed.

North Carolina

  • Bethany Richeson
    A. L. Brown High School
    Kannapolis, North Carolina

    Richeson’s winning program idea, “No More Bullies”, is a comprehensive anti-bullying program in which the entire  seven-school Kannapolis City Schools District can participate. By incorporating the Second Chance/Steps to Respect program, district educators of kindergarten through fifth-grade students can effectively integrate anti-bullying lessons into their curriculum through books and lessons in the English and Social Studies curriculum. Students will learn how to recognize and effectively combat bullying.

North Dakota

  • Chris Hahn
    Central Cass Elementary School
    Casselton, North Dakota

    Hahn’s winning program idea, “The New Phy. Ed.”, is inspired by the increased obesity rates in North Dakota. As a hybrid of teaching movement skills, nutrition, individual challenges, and technology, “The New Phys. Ed.” initiative can help to create a unique physical education experience accessible to all students, including those with disabilities. Pre-fitness evaluations will be taken using fitness software associated with Apple iPod technology and will give students a profile they can use to monitor their progress throughout the year.


  • Rick Meyer
    Sidney Public Schools
    Sidney, Nebraska

    “Blending Technology With the Local Library” is Meyer’s creative program idea. With his program, each of the 225 second and third-grade students will have an opportunity to offer technology-based book reviews for others to hear before checking out the book. Students will first check out a book from the local public library and read it and create a review.

  • Nathan Larsen
    Aurora High School
    Aurora, Nebraska

    “Lights, Camera, Action: Student Created iMovies” is Larsen’s innovative teaching idea. It involves students in the American Government course creating a political campaign commercial and videos that outline the platform of a political party of their choosing. They also will recreate scenes from films watched in the History of Film Studies course, creating their own short films. Finally, they will create public service announcements as part of the Current Issues Course, utilizing primary and secondary sources to analyze and develop a position on a pressing global issue.

  • Theresa Schmidt
    Mary Our Queen School
    Omaha, Nebraska

    “Word Power/iPad Vocabulary”, Schmidt’s winning project, involves utilizing iPad apps to improve vocabulary skills. The year-long program  will engage students in activities that build their vocabulary, teach word learning strategies and foster enjoyment and satisfaction  using an expanded vocabulary. iPad apps such as Popplet, Doodle Buddy, and Puppet Pals, allow students to creatively explore such  literacy elements as word meaning, synonyms, root words, and prefixes and suffixes.