Amy Ballou has pursued her elementary school dream of becoming a physical education teacher and a gymnastics coach. She leads by example on a daily basis, creating an age-appropriate curriculum that challenges each student to do their personal best. Over the years, she has also initiated and participated in a variety of community, school, and district wellness and fitness programs/committees.
Ms. Ballou says it best in her philosophy statement:
Recognizing the ever-increasing problem of obesity and other health-related conditions resulting from sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary habits led me to pursue a degree in physical education. The need to instill the knowledge, practices, and positive attitude surrounding a healthy lifestyle must begin at a young age. The role of the physical educator is to use a variety of creative techniques to engage each student on an individual level. Daily lessons must incorporate safety, encourage self-respect, and promote responsibility in all aspects of a student’s life. My lessons allow students to excel in movement activities at their own pace within a positive learning environment. By utilizing developmentally appropriate practices, my students leave my classroom with a positive outlook on physical activity, as well as the confidence to pursue physical activity throughout their lives.
As physical educators, I feel it is essential for all students to succeed, to feel confident in their abilities, and to have the skills to perform a variety of activities. By incorporating modifications and extensions into my daily lessons, I expect all my students to leave my class with a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. I believe creating a positive and safe learning environment will contribute to positive lifespan changes in my students’ lives. As a result, they will be less likely to be affected by preventable conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and hypertension. I believe with an adequate combination of motivation, enthusiasm, and variety in my instructional format, I will contribute to my students’ desire to live healthier, more fulfilled lives.
To achieve these outcomes, I have an educational focus in my class which challenges my student to a higher order of critical thinking. I want them to understand how the activity will improve their physical fitness, why we are doing it, and when and where to utilize specific techniques and strategies outside the classroom. I also want my students to learn skills and attain a level of mastery. I expect them to demonstrate respect for themselves and for each other to ensure the entire class is successful. To internalize the significance of physical education into their lives, students need to transform the purpose of an activity into personal desire and bridge their knowledge and skill level into a willingness to participate and enjoy physical activities, and thereby create the desire to pursue ongoing healthy and physically active lifestyles.
I believe assessing my students’ progress is essential for this process to be successful. It also provides an essential means for assessing my effectiveness as a teacher. This can best be accomplished by utilizing many forms of testing in the grading process. To properly evaluate all types of learning styles, a variety of tools can be used, including demonstrations, portfolios, journal writing, written/oral testing, peer and self-assessments and rubrics. A creative and flexible instructor is a crucial component of daily lessons in schools. This versatility is fundamental to providing student-centered learning, stimulating lessons, and fair, effective testing practices.
The ever-increasing problem of obesity and other conditions related to sedentary lifestyles mandates the necessity for increased physical activity. As a physical educator, I believe we need to be the professionals promoting physical activity in our schools and communities and teach by example. I believe that a teacher needs to be a good role model for his/her students. I live a drug-free lifestyle and incorporate fitness and nutrition into my everyday practices. I have been involved in sports since I was young and know the benefits of physical activity, self-discipline, and time management. I developed confidence and leadership skills that helped me with coaching and teaching children at various levels. I have a learning disability which has enhanced my appreciation for different learning styles and the need for a variety of methods to assess individual students. As a nation, we can only benefit from positive behavior changes and I hope to see the obesity epidemic reversed in my lifetime.
“Amy Ballou has been our assistant coach for gymnastics at Keene High School for several years," said Mike Atkins, director of athletics at Keene High School. "She took over as the head coach two years ago and has done a terrific job with bringing new KHS students into the sport. She is supportive, outgoing, approachable, and a positive role model to all her students/athletes."
"Amy communicates very well with all constituencies including parents, fellow coaches, teachers of her student-athletes, the administration and the community," Atkins continued. "She is simply fun to be around because of her sunny demeanor. Her involvement in the lives of her student-athletes has a positive effect on them as young adults.”
Ms. Ballou identified an issue of equipment and space at the high school. She researched alternatives and established an affordable agreement to hold all gymnastic practices and meets at the local YMCA. Previously, the team had to set-up and take down all equipment every day. She is always working for the best for the team while holding safety as a high priority. In addition, she worked to establish a booster club group for the gymnastics team.
“Amy Ballou has impressed me as an industrious individual who puts forth great effort in whatever she undertakes," said Patricia Yoerger, Wheelock Elementary School principal. "She is dedicated to tasks and expends the time and energy necessary to complete projects. She develops an effective network of resources and colleagues with whom she collaborates well."
"Amy is a self-starter and intuitively knows what needs to be done and does it," Yoerger continued. "She challenged her classes to bring in box tops for extra money to purchase PE supplies to benefit the students. When our school participated in the American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart/Hoops for Heart fundraiser, 96 students raised over $2700, far surpassing the goal of $1000. Her dedication to provide support and encouragement to student physical activity is admirable. Amy regularly gives 110%."
As an instructor, Ms. Ballou clearly understands student physical and motor skill development. She uses music to support students and encourage cardiovascular warm-ups at the beginning of all lessons. She uses games and centers to teach and practice skills. Ms. Ballou is resourceful and ensures that she has the most appropriate equipment to support student learning.
She is also an effective communicator as a member of the school staff. She created a website where she shares pictures and videos of students engaged in physical activity. Ms. Ballou created outreach by participating in Safe Routes to School Walk and Bike to School days. In addition, she coordinated physical education activities for students at recess such as dancing to music and an additional gymnastics practice session. She is also the teacher/advisor for the Safety Patrol Program at her school.
To be effective, a teacher has to interact with every student. Front-loading and setting a student up for success is a driving force for active participation. Encouraging students to take positive risks enables them to apply those skills to other situations in their lives. Allowing them to make mistakes in a safe environment helps them to develop a sense of good judgment that they can benefit from throughout their lives.
Throughout her career, Ms. Ballou has expanded her school’s physical education curriculum and provided diversified PE activities. These include interactive exercise video games (e.g. DDR), an outdoor ice skating rink, a snowshoe unit, vertical climbing apparatus activities, a coed dance team, an adaptive PE class for students with weight issues, and updated gymnastics equipment.
She strives to instill habits for a healthy lifestyle that her students can share with their families and carry into their adult life. Parents have commented that they have been motivated by their children to initiate family activities that incorporate physical fitness and improved dietary habits. Her instruction is literally crossing generations through the education of her students. If Ms. Ballou is chosen for an award, she will utilize the funds to benefit the school, her students, and the community to the best of her ability.