Amy Ballou was nominated by an anonymous family member.
To be effective, a teacher/coach has to interact with every student. Frontloading 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 good judgment tactics they can benefit from throughout their lives. Amy exemplifies these skills on a daily basis.
Presently, Ms. Ballou is the Physical Education teacher at Wheelock Elementary School in Keene, NH. She continuously works to expand her physical education curriculum and provide diversified activities in the school and out in the local communities. This year, she networked to bring Ga-Gal Ball and Karate to her students. She is always exploring ways to incorporate innovative exercises into the school. Many of her students come from low socioeconomic homes, so without these opportunities, they would not have access to these experiences.
In addition to her daily teaching tasks, Ms. Ballou is also the advisor for the school’s Safety Patrol students and Head Coach for the local high school gymnastics team. In the local communities, she is involved with coaching soccer, the design/installation/implementation of a new playground, and a district-wide Color Run.
Her love for gymnastics has taken her a full circle from high school gymnast to All-American collegiate gymnast to high school head coach. When she was a student, her high school did not have a girls’ gymnastics team, so she researched how to compete as an independent gymnast. She established a platform at her school so other gymnasts that followed her could compete during their high school years as well.
Ms. Ballou served as assistant coach for gymnastics at Keene High School for several years. She took over as the head coach in 2016 and has worked hard to bring new KHS students into the sport. Identifying an issue of equipment and space at KHS, she researched affordable alternatives and established an agreement with Keene YMCA. In 2017, the KHS Girls Gymnastics Team had a new home for all practices and meets! Previously, the team had to set-up and take down all the equipment every day. She is always working for the best of the team while holding safety as a high priority. In addition, she worked to establish a booster club for the gymnastics team and organized fundraising for cancer patients.
As with her coaching, she is always looking for ingenious and creative ways to improve the program, increase her students’ interest in athletics, and teach them the importance of being active. At a previous school where she taught, she utilized interactive exercise video games (e.g. Dance Dance Revolution), built an outdoor skating rink including going nightly to the school to spray water on the ice and obtaining a grant for ice skates for the students. In addition, she added a snowshoe unit, vertical climbing apparatus, a co-ed dance team, and an adaptive “PE” opportunity for students with weight issues. At her present school, there is limited funding so money from an award would give her the opportunity to enrich the program for her students.
There are many great educational staff people in the schools in this country, but sometimes there is one that stands out above the rest. That teacher is Ms. Ballou. She leads by example and recognizes the benefits of athletics. Sports can provide important life skills including time management, self-discipline, confidence, leadership, and physical fitness. Her energy is infectious, her enthusiasm contagious, her ability to design and implement her curriculum amazing. She is able to engage every student on a 1:1 basis inside and outside the class setting. She is described by the athletic director as a “positive role model, supportive, outgoing, and approachable to all her students/athletes. Ms. Ballou communicates very well with all constituencies including parents, fellow coaches, teachers of her student-athletes, the administration and the community. She is simply fun to be around because of her sunny demeanor. Her positive spin on all aspects of her involvement in the lives of her student/athletes have a positive effect on them as young adults.
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 (Amy’s students) to initiate family activities that incorporate physical fitness and improved dietary habits. Literally, her teaching is crossing generations through the education of her students—helping to make a healthier America one student at a time.