For the past 17 years, the ING Unsung Heroes® program has honored educators across the country who work tirelessly – and often without much recognition – to make a lifelong impact in the classroom for their students. Winning programs over the years have provided outstanding educators the opportunity to bring to life their innovative and engaging teaching methods and ideas for their students. Many teachers develop new educational methods and creative programs, but run up against the wall of limited funding. Through the ING Unsung Heroes program, ING U.S. has recognized and helped fund these great ideas for nearly 20 years, ultimately helping to improve learning for America’s K-12 students.  

One of the winning programs in the 2013 ING Unsung Heroes competition was submitted by Sandra Makielski, a seventh grade social studies teacher at Davisville Middle School in North Kingstown. She is going back to school with a $2,000 ING Unsung Heroes grant. By receiving the ING Unsung Heroes award, Makielski is recognized as one of the nation’s most innovative educators. She is one of only 100 winners across the country who is receiving a $2,000 award to help fund “African Folktales”, her creative idea and bring it to life. She will now compete with other winners for one of the top three prizes — an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 from ING U.S.  

“African Folktales Dramatized Using 3-D Masks”, Makielski’s innovative teaching idea, will give students a greater understanding of African culture. The 90 seventh-grade students will work in groups to produce and perform African folktales for their peers. The performance will be held under a tent outside the school in an effort to replicate a traditional African experience of sharing stories in large groups out in the open to foster a sense of community. A theater artist will assist in the selection of folktales, development of theatrical movements, and the use of musical instruments to create the performances. A drumming artist will meet and work with the students to instruct them on basic African drumming techniques. This program will successfully integrate the arts into the social studies curriculum, providing a new and different approach to education. Additionally, through the movement, music and art, students will be exposed to activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. Makielski lives in Wakefield. 

“ING U.S. is honored to salute these outstanding teachers for their innovative ideas and dedication to America’s youth,” said Jamie Ohl, president of Tax-Exempt Markets for ING U.S. Retirement Solutions.

“Each day, we help individuals prepare for a secure financial future, and we are proud to help these men and women who prepare students for their future. With this grant Sandra Makielski is receiving through our ING Unsung Heroes program, her project can continue making an impact on the children she serves.”  

ING U.S., a leading provider of retirement plans and programs for teachers, began the ING Unsung Heroes program in 1996 to demonstrate the company’s commitment to the education community. Over the years, the program has awarded more than $4 million to 1,800 kindergarten through 12th- grade educators for their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects, and ability to positively influence the children they teach. 

The 2013 ING Unsung Heroes winners were selected from a group of nearly 1,300 applications. To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, visit the ING Unsung Heroes website (unsungheroes.com). More information about the program can also be found on the ING Unsung Heroes Facebook page (facebook.com/unsungheroesgrant) where people can like and share the page to encourage more educators to apply. Applications for the 2014 ING Unsung Heroes awards are currently being accepted through the website.


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