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Carson City teacher earns national grant

Special to the Nevada Appeal
Mark Twain Elementary School’s Christina Bourne is one of 100 teachers from across the country, and the only chosen from Nevada, who won an award to help bring an innovative teaching program to life.
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Voya Financial, Inc., a leading provider of retirement plans for educators, announced Christina Bourne, a teacher at Mark Twain Elementary School, has received a $2,000 grant as part of the company’s 2016 Voya Unsung Heroes awards competition.

Through the Voya Unsung Heroes program, Voya Financial awards grants to K-12 educators nationwide to honor their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects, and their ability to positively influence the children they teach. This year marks the program’s 20th anniversary. Since 1996, it has awarded nearly $5 million in grants to more than 2,000 educators across the United States.

Video testimonials sent in by winners from the past two decades underscore how the Voya Unsung Heroes program has made a significant difference in the lives of these teachers and their students. In looking back at the winning projects from the program’s 20-year history, Voya has also been able to track the popular trends and compelling concepts that have shaped our country’s education system.

“At Voya, we not only have the privilege of helping teachers plan for their retirement, we also have this unique opportunity to help them dream big in the classroom and inspire their students to do the same,” said Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets at Voya Financial. “We are proud to recognize those exceptional teachers who work every day to raise the bar of their profession and find new ways to spark a love of learning. As we help Americans plan, invest and protect their savings to build a secure financial future, we’re honored to help Christina Bourne go above and beyond to prepare her students for their own bright future.”

Bourne’s innovative teaching idea, “Connecting Music and Literacy,” is focused on utilizing barred instruments, like a xylophone, and children’s literature to improve student achievement in the areas of reading and composition. The use of barred instruments in conjunction with literature will help reinforce key skills that are crucial for reading fluency. When playing these instruments, the students will learn to play left to right. This action reinforces the method in which humans learn to read text through the movement on the instrument. The program is designed to help improve students’ reading skills by crossing the midline of their body to play the notes on the instruments. This action of crossing the midline helps the brain make connections from one side of the body to the other. Bourne hopes this program will help improve reading and comprehension scores across the elementary school.

Selected from a group of more than 1,350 applicants, Bourne is one of only 100 winners across the country who will receive this award to help fund and bring her program to life. In addition she will now compete with other finalists for one of the top three prizes — an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 from Voya Financial.

To learn more about this year’s winning projects, as well as those from previous years, go to unsungheroes.com. Applications for the 2017 Voya Unsung Heroes awards are currently being accepted through the website until April 30, 2017.