LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Amy Ballou

Position: Physical Education Teacher
School: Wheelock Elementary School
School District: Keene School District
City, State: Keene, NH

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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. 

Comments (9)

Andrea Guild Posted over a year ago

Congratulations on the nomination! From the messages I am reading on here, so well deserved. Continue the extraordinary job you are doing and best of luck. You have my vote!

Chad Wells Posted over a year ago

I have known Amy Ballou for over 20 years. I have witnessed her passion and ability to focus her energy to complete the goals she sets out to achieve. I’ve not met a more determined, loving, compassionate educator. Amy is always exuded a level of excellence in her life and cares deeply for the well-being and physical fitness of all her students. Amy has my vote!

Adam Ballou Posted over a year ago

I am Mrs. Ballou’s son. I am 8 years old. She is the best mom because she snuggles with me at bedtime. She is an awesome teacher and coach. She makes everything fun!

Chris & Patty Poplaski Posted over a year ago

I just read through the previous comments including the more than 25 observations within the previous submission. Without a doubt, Amy exemplifies the six qualities that describe a Life Changer of the Year. Amy utilizes activities and lessons in her classes that her students enjoy. They trust her and know they can turn to her no matter what the situation and she will be there. This gives her students positive outcomes in their lives which builds self-esteem and confidence. Amy is intuitive about the needs of the district and takes it upon herself to create a network of colleagues to address and solve any issues. Due to her effective communication skills, she is able to collaborate well on all projects. Amy is well-respected at her school, in the district, and in the community. She is compassionate about her students and the people in the community, as seen from fundraising for cancer patients to chairing the playground project. She participates in many events and is very effective in leadership positions. Amy has received awards in physical education, healthy habits, and she was the first PE teacher in the country to ever to receive the American Star of Teaching and No Child Left Behind Award. By creating music and dance sessions during recess, conducting school wide friendly competition, and advising students for safety patrol and other activities at the school, she cultivates acceptance no matter what the student’s skill level or background is. Amy is an effective role model and leads by example in all aspects of her life whether it be as a leader, teacher, mother, or community member. Importantly, she addresses all students, parents, and colleagues equally with no prejudice to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or socioeconomic status. I highly recommend Amy be chosen as the 2019-20 Life Changer of the Year.

Al & Pam Posted over a year ago

Amy Ballou—Changing Lives—"Engaging Every Student, Every Day!” As Amy’s family we could go on and on about her many accomplishments, but our comments might be biased??. Therefore, we will write some background information, then relay comments that were submitted and/or what we hear directly or indirectly at a soccer game, at the school, in the gymnastics gym, or out in the community. (We added a couple songs here because it was not done at the time of her nomination). Amy had her struggles as a child; she was born two months premature at 4 lbs. 14 oz. She was challenged by a learning disability, but was never “coded” nor qualified for any extra help from the school. Instead she worked much harder and longer than other students to achieve the grades she strived to attain. None of this stopped her from fulfilling her dream to become a physical education teacher and coach, graduating with her BS and MS summa cum laude. "Amy has a Proven Record of Professional Excellence and Exemplary Leadership at the School Community Level" Amy wears many hats, but her upbeat personality allows her to do this well. Over the years, she has exemplified high achievement and leadership skills as seen by being selected for two honor societies and as captain of her college gymnastics team. She also received awards for Outstanding Female Scholar- Athlete, All-American status in Academics and Gymnastics Skills, Jay B. Nash Outstanding Major Award, HEAL Healthy Hero Teacher Award, and American Star of Teaching No Child Left Behind Award. She initiated a Dance Team and a class for students with weight issues. She served as Project Chairperson, organizing, and designing the community-wide playground. Amy volunteered to be the sports commissioner for soccer and basketball so that the town did not lose recreational sports for the children in grades K-6. She organized a music and dance activity during recess at her school. Through a grant, she obtained Fit-Bit Aces to determine the number of steps students take during a normal school day, analyze this data, and provide the best strategy to improve their fitness levels. In addition, she coaches gymnastics on the high school level. A couple years ago, the situation at the high school was less than ideal due to the need to set-up and take down all the equipment every day. Due to this the equipment was showing signs of wear, thereby causing a safety issue. Amy was able to work with the community YMCA to utilize their gym and equipment for all practices and meets. She also implemented a fundraiser to provide products for patients in cancer treatment. Comments: From Maxine: When Amy was a teenager at Monadnock Regional High School, she was inspiring others to be the best that they could be. She had a strong determination to succeed in her life and share her journey with other students and staff. Amy has stayed in touch with my husband (who was a teacher) and me (Principal's Administrative Assistant) for many years and we've enjoyed traveling with her through life's special moments. If anyone is deserving of this nomination, it's Amy Ballou. From the Keene School District’s Athletic Director Mike: Amy Ballou has been our assistant coach for gymnastics at Keene High School for several years. She took over as the head coach three 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. 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. In addition, she established a Booster Club for the Gymnastics Team and has taken on an independent gymnast from another school. "Amy shows Humility" When Amy was nominated for a Life Changer of the Year Award, she was honored, but also humbled. She responded that she is the kind of teacher she is because she is part of a great team with a great leader. She takes on many projects, not looking for recognition, but rather to benefit the children. “Engage Every Student, Every Day.” Diana Ross’ Song---". . .Reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place, if you can. . . take a little time out of your busy day to give encouragement to someone who’s lost the way. . .would I be talking to a stone if I asked you to share a problem that’s not your own, we can change things if we start giving. . .if you see an old friend on the street and he’s down, remember his shoes could fit your feet, try a little kindness, you’ll see it’s something that comes very naturally, we can change things if we start giving, why don’t you reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place if you can. . .” Comments: From Steve: I think Amy would be an excellent recipient of the Life Changer of the Year Award. Her accomplishments are exactly what parents and community members are looking for with our teachers. Excellent job by her. From John Feeney, College Gymnastics Coach: I have known Amy for about 18 yrs. She was on my college gymnastics team and in my classes here at SUNY College at Brockport. She was a very dedicated and hardworking individual who accomplished a lot in her time here. It does not surprise me that she has done such an amazing job at her school. She was a great team leader and came in with an attitude of "Make progress not excuses" Congrats! "Amy is Appreciative and Recognizes Others" Amy is nominating her former high school teacher Mr. Butterfield, who represents all that a teacher can be and more. He genuinely cares about his students, works to challenge them, and prepares them well for the rigors of college academics. She took his physics and anatomy and physiology courses, and although they were tough classes, Mr. Butterfield always made himself available to help her. She has a learning disability, but he never lost patience with her. When she was in college, he would call her to be his substitute teacher because he knew she was a very hard-working student and was confident she could teach the material. "Amy shows Commitment to Building a Nurturing Environment that Supports Learning & Makes a Positive Impact in the Lives of Students" Whitney Houston’s Song “. . . I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride. . .Everybody’s searching for a hero, people need someone to look up to. . .” Many studies define childhood as a sensitive period of cognitive development. Physical activity improves cognitive function and motor skill development. Active children do better on standardized tests and have better grades in addition to reaping the harvest of long-term health benefits such as: preventing obesity, high-risk activities, depression, diabetes, and heart-related disorders to name a few (Godman, H. (2018). Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. Harvard Health Letter. Retrieved from Amy leads by example; she is drug-free and incorporates exercise and nutrition into her everyday life. She recognizes the difference an active lifestyle can make with respect to physical, mental, social, and psychological well-being. She incorporates other subjects into her curriculum to enhance her students critical thinking skills. She teaches the science behind exercise and why it is important, with attention to different learning styles, allowing each student to grasp its significance and motivate them to live healthier lives. She utilizes music in her lessons to make it fun and giving each child the opportunity to participate in a positive and safe learning environment while building confidence and a sense of accomplishment. She has high expectations challenging her students to do their best in many areas of life; her classes are not just about physical fitness, but as important, it is about being kind, social skills, coping skills, and respect for others. Her students learn how to be healthy physically and psychologically; this knowledge will provide lifelong skills they will be able to utilize in situations at home and in their future endeavors. Comments: From Donna: Developing healthy habits now will last a lifetime. Physical education should be a priority. My opinion--- Mrs. Ballou is a great candidate for the Life Changer of the Year Award. From Carley: I think Amy would be a great recipient for this award. Her accomplishment brings a tremendous amount of positivity to the community truly changing lives for the better. From Nicole: Congrats! This does not surprise me at all. You have a super positive attitude & it’s obvious you love & feel passionate about making a difference with children! From Kelly: Amy encourages all her students to reach their goals through taking risks and learning through positive reinforcement. Comments from colleagues: From Sarah: Amy is a fantastic PE teacher and is always looking for new ways to encourage students to move and enjoy many different kinds of physical activity. She is truly amazing! From Tina: Amy Ballou is a caring, energetic, enthusiastic PE educator. She is a coach and encourages each student to do his or her best. Amy puts time and energy into additional activities and events. She has friendly school-wide competitions between classes to collect box tops to earn money for our school. Students are so fortunate to have such a positive role model for physical education??. From Kristin: Amy is my colleague at Wheelock School. Her dedications, commitment, and passion for teaching is easily apparent. From Patty, principal: 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. "Amy Enhances the School/District Atmosphere, Culture and Pride" Amy is a leader within the school district. She builds pride and school spirit. She is first to take on a project, access what needs to be done, recruit team members as necessary, and works through it to a successful end. An administrator states: Amy is a talented educator, a strong builder of community, and an energizer to spark making positive changes happen. Amy is dedicated to children in all that she does. She works to instill the love of learning and communicate the benefits of exercise, wellness, and physical well-being. She dedicates herself to creative fundraising in order to provide additional equipment and services for children. She is an active member of our school PTA. Amy is like the energizer bunny- she goes and goes and goes- and brings great skills and opportunities for children. Comments From Joan: Amy’s excellence as a teacher and exceptional commitment to her students make her a truly deserving recipient of this award. From Christina: While watching her coach soccer, a group of parents said, “We are so glad Amy stepped up and took the soccer commissioner position in our town. Everything is so organized; it makes it so much easier for us and the kids love it. We didn’t want to lose recreational sports for our kids in town.” From David: Ms. Ballou is just the type of educator we need in our school systems. Her philosophy and the comments of others show that she is truly a teacher that values the whole child and is truly concerned with the development of healthy values and habits that can serve her students far beyond their years in her classes. This remarkable young woman is far more than a gym teacher. I am extremely impressed her and her work. From Bryan: I've seen her passion and dedication first hand and I will tell you that there is no doubt that Ms. Ballou absolutely deserves this award. The measure of a person is not simply how great their gifts are, but the impact they leave on others. I've seen it first hand, that she has provided guidance, confidence, and direction to every child she has worked with. Her impact continues from her focus on physical and mental health, to well into the classroom and beyond. Not only is she doing great work, but she is the definition of a "Life Changer". In my opinion she embodies the full spirit of this award. From Chris: It would be an understatement to say that Amy is one of the hardest working people I know. If you are not putting in your 150%, then you are not giving it your all. Amy puts in 150% into everything she does and it reflects in all aspects of life, especially her teaching. Her students, fellow teachers, gymnasts, and all other individuals who work with her routinely seek out her guidance and advice because she is that good at what she does. From Alana: It is no surprise that Amy would receive such an achievement! She is a leader, and deserves every positive accolade offered. Thank you, Amy, for being a positive role model for our youth. From Carley: I think Amy would be a great recipient for this award. Her accomplishments bring a tremendous amount of positivity to the community, truly changing lives for the better. From Jana: Amy works really hard to set up a program that works for each individual student. I work with several parents of students of Amy’s and they and their children love her and love having her for a teacher. I see her use the same principles raising her young son as she uses in teaching her students. The results are amazing!. Comments from colleagues: From Jaime: Amy is a strong and confident person that always cheers on others to be the best that they can be whether it be in a role as a teacher, gymnastics coach, or a friend. Her positivity and energy are contagious. I have heard stories from other parents talking about how excited their children are to have Mrs. Ballou as their teacher. Stories of how she makes recess fun by going out to play with them and interacts with them beyond the expected roles of a physical education teacher. Her students, no doubt, are lucky to have her as their teacher and role model. From Jen: Amy Ballou's energy and enthusiasm has made a positive impact on our school community. She is a skilled PE teacher, who truly cares about her students. Amy has created school wide activities and friendly competitions that foster wellness and healthy habits. We are truly fortunate to have her at Wheelock School! From Lisa: I have appreciated Amy's commitment to fitness through fun interactions with her students. From the very first class with my kindergarten students she has encouraged the children to move, learn appropriate fitness techniques, and play stimulating games. I come early to pick up the students just so I can watch them learning a new skill, playing a game that entertains and challenges them, or simply having a great time! To me, P.E. should be their favorite "special". When I see the joyful looks on their faces, I know that for most of them it definitely is their favorite time of the week. Amy is indeed a special P.E. teacher. We are lucky to have her. From Patty, principal: Amy Ballou has impressed me as an industrious individual who puts forth great effort in whatever she undertakes. 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. Her dedication to provide support and encouragement to student physical activity is admirable. Amy regularly gives 110%. 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/adviser for the Safety Patrol Program at the school. "Amy Adheres to the Highest Moral and Ethical Standards" Amy’s classes are fun, but she demands kindness, courtesy, and respect for each other. She teaches organizational skills, responsibility and accountability in her classes. She is a caring professional where the students know they can go for a safe place. She guides her students through their mistakes teaching coping, correction, and self-worth skills. In addition, she addresses bullying issues first hand and promptly. Comments: From a parent (Amy K): Mrs. Ballou was wonderful with my daughter and a bully situation. She was very quick to spot it and very quick to resolve it and my daughter was so grateful for the help. They talked their problems out and even cried and became great friends again! We are so blessed she was there and so helpful! Comments from colleagues: From Ann: Amy makes class fun! Her students are learning that work can be fun even if it is hard. She pushes them to push their limits so they are excelling and learning they can do more! She supports students and staff, giving beyond 100%. As I got to know Amy, I clearly saw she lives the same as she teaches, holding the bar high for herself in all that she does. From Kerry: Amy is an awesome PE teacher! As a fellow PE teacher, I aspire to be as good an educator as she is! Comments: From KHS Gymnastics Team: We would like to thank our coach Amy for putting up with us for the past 4 years, helping us grown as gymnasts and as individuals, while pushing us to be the best teammates and competitors that we can be. In between the intense workouts and the stresses of school, Amy always made sure we made room for team bonding--whether it be tie-dye days, team field trips, post-meet Olive Garden, or the occasional trip to a trampoline park. The feeling of community on this team has skyrocketed over the past 4 years with her as our coach. "Amy is a Loving Daughter, Wife, and Mother" And on top of all this commitment and energy, Amy is a loving daughter, wife, and mother. Best of luck to you Amy. We are so proud of you!??

James Butterfield Posted over a year ago

Since I had Ms. Ballou as a student at Monadnock Regional High School I new she would be successful. She has always had a genuine care and concern for others. Her sense of empathy always led her to help others and make their challenges her challenges. She has continued this approach to life as a teacher. Ms. Ballou works to fulfill this same sense of mission professionally as she works to help ensure that today's youth have healthy minds and healthy bodies so they are ready to fulfill their innate potential. Ms. Ballou is bringing her own positive experience and love for health and physical education to her students. I was inspired to watch Ms. Ballou compete as a student athlete and now I am inspired and proud to see her share that same passion with students and fulfill her life-long mission to serve others. Ms. Ballou is the kind of person and educator that this prestigious award is meant to honor. If selected there is no doubt that she will live up to its ideals.

Rebecca Simino Posted over a year ago

Amy is an extraordinary individual. She goes above and beyond in ALL aspects of her life. As a friend she is kind, generous, fun loving, a great story teller, down to earth, and a whirlwind of positive energy that seems to rub off onto anyone she comes into contact with. She gives 110% in everything she does. She also somehow finds time to go all in as a fantastic mother to her son, Adam. She has my vote!

Linda Christo Posted over a year ago

Amy is one of the most compassionate educators in Supervisory Union 29. Always ready with a helping hand to all of the children, Amy displays her humongous heart with her impact resonating with each of the children during these tumultuous times. This woman rises to the task with humor and a ‘take-no-prisoner’ attitude. She is ‘All In’. Kudos Ms. Ballou!!

Heidi Posted over a year ago

No matter which school Amy has taught at she shows strong leadership skills. She is always actively involved in the school and the community. Amy gives more than 100% in everything she does. She is most deserving of this award.