Michael Bonner is an inspiring second grade teacher at North Carolina's South Greenville Elementary, where the majority of students have strenuous familial dynamics and many are homeless. The school is 100% FRL (free and reduced lunch) and is located in an impoverished neighborhood in Eastern North Carolina. In early 2017, Bonner was honored by Ellen DeGeneres in recognition of his positive and innovative educational approaches for children coping with the challenges of poverty. Ellen presented Bonner and his school with technical equipment to assist in the creation of music videos serving as aids to education. Additionally, Wal-Mart presented the school with $25,000, and the Ellen Show created a Go Fund Me site for South Greenville, which has raised over $88,000 for the Title I school. However, the amazing journey did not stop there!
One month after he first appeared on her show, Ellen flew Mr. Bonner and his entire second grade class to visit with her again at her studio. Twenty children from Mr. Bonner's class received an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles, California. The students recorded in a professional studio had class on a Hollywood set, and made a professional music video with Ellen, Big Sean, Ice Cube, Migos, Ty Dolla Sign, and Lin Manuel Miranda! Mr.Bonner's class was then awarded another $20,000 from Wal-Mart to assist in creating a more prosperous learning environment.
His efforts to change the proficiency learning culture have also captured attention from other national news outlets. NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Flocabulary, the Ashton Kutcher Foundation, and Remind all released stories on how Mr. Bonner is utilizing music as a tool to help counter the negative statistical data concerning children living in poverty. He's had the privilege of speaking at NC State University, the American Association for Blacks in Higher Education, and various other institutions, delivering powerful messages on improving student performance and resilience.
With only four years in K-12 education, Mr. Bonner is consistently seen as a visionary leader who strives to create a positive mindset among all of his students. He understands that his students come to class each day with diverse backgrounds, strengths, needs, and challenges, and seeks to identify strategies to ensure the growth of their social, emotional, academic, and psychological needs. Because of his approach to education, students leave feeling a little more hopeful, challenged, inspired, and forever a part of Bonnerville!
Katie Swingle is the mother of four young boys from Central Florida. Her oldest son, age 11, is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Mrs. Swingle has spoken at many events and to varied audiences about the value of school choice and in particular the positive ways that the Gardiner Scholarship has changed her family’s life and her sons track for academic and social success in his life.
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Rebekah Phillips is an author and award-winning illustrator, and the founder of Pawz Publishing. Her books range in reading level from pre-K to 3rd grade, and introduce children to lovable characters who each learn valuable life lessons. The stories give teachers and parents tools to discuss topics such as fear, love, and what it means to be a good friend. Recently, the characters from her books have come to life with an expanded line of custom plush toys.
The mission of Pawz Publishing is to help children develop into kind and thoughtful human beings through imaginative stories filled with friendships, adventure, and fun.
Rebekah is a graduate of the Lyme College of Fine Arts in Connecticut, and has illustrated many titles for other authors in addition to her own.
“I hope my books have messages that are remembered, illustrations that inspire, and characters that are loved for years to come.” -Rebekah