Will Rogers Junior High Library Media Specialist Barbara Ballard said it makes her sad to think that the next seven or so school days will be her last in public education. After 42 years of teaching, Ballard will retire at the end of the school year.
Originally from Grove, Ballard began as speech teacher for Tulsa Public Schools in 1969 before transfering to Broken Arrow and then Hominy. She taught 4th and 6th grade at Hominy for 12 years.
Ballard and her husband, Benny, head football coach with Hominy at the time, moved to Claremore in 1986. Coach Ballard won back to back state championships with the Bucks and was head football coach at Claremore from 1988 through 1993.
He left coaching and became administrator for Sequoyah.
“Benny retired, stayed out for five years and then went back. A glutton for punishment,” she said.
As a former sixth grade teacher for Central Upper Elementary, Ballard became interested in the media specialist position after the school’s librarian quit in 1997.
“I said ‘I’d like to have that job,’ and assistant superintendent Dan Willet told me you have to have your Master’s. I enrolled at OU Library Information Studies that same day and finished my degree in 2001,” said Ballard.
She said as a media specialist, her job consists of ordering books for the library, recommending books for students, assisting with check outs and helping teachers and students with anything they might need.
“We’re a jack of all trades and masters at administering school programs. The library is a great place to work because if they’re misbehaving, I can just tell them to leave,” she said smiling. “In all honesty these students love the library.”
Throughout the years, Ballard has seen the district and overall school system change tremendously, but she said one thing has remained the same - the students.
“The kids are still basically the same, they just have a lot more and know a lot more thanks to technology,” said Ballard. “Many of the things we do in the library are now computer-based. When I say ‘dictionary,’ the students say ‘dot com,’ they don’t want that book.”
She has found herself already missing the “little things” related to her profession.
“Every day I think- this is the last time I will do this, and it makes me a little sad,” she said. “It probably won’t hit me completely until September, but I’m going to miss this place and of course the students.”
For decades, Ballard has sharpened the minds of students and provided them with the resources they needed to succeed. In one way or another those students and their parents have demonstrated their appreciation.
Ballard has received numerous thank you letters, which she has kept, from children who have moved away or needed an extra push to succeed in school.
In a document that she typed entitled “Philosophy of Teaching,” Ballard wrote
“For me the profession of teaching was more of a calling than a decision I consciously made. I believe that every child has the right to receive the best education possible. They have the right to be taught by people who will respect them and teachers who have only the interests of their students in mind. My philosophy of education is a very simple one. I believe that I, as an educator, must do everything in my power to see that children who enter my classroom leave with more than when they came.”
During her retirement, Ballard said when not visiting her grandchildren in Adair, she plans to spend her time reading and volunteering for the school district.
Ballards awards and recognitions include- CUE “Teacher of the Year,” Claremore Nominee for “Teacher of the Year”, Certificate of Recognition as CCTA President in 1994, National League of Junior Cotillions’ “Best Mannered Teacher” in 1997 as well as recognition from the Claremore Public Schools Foundation, Superintendent’s Advisory Council and Finance Committee.
She has served time as President of Hominy Classroom Teachers, President of Claremore Classroom Teachers, Treasurer of Claremore Classroom Teachers, cheerleading coach and PTA representative.