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Vickie Ball: English Teacher, Harlan Independent High School This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Brooks Adams

I know that those who taught me were once taught by others. In that way, one teacher's influence on a student is a reflection of another teacher's work. I know that one day the impact my teachers have had on me will allow me to impact others. This is one of the many reasons I am privileged to know Mrs. Vickie Ball, English teacher at Harlan Independent High School. Her influence on my life and my education more than qualifies her as Educator of the Year.

Regardless of background, Mrs. Ball makes all students believe in themselves. I have seen students enter her classroom expecting to breeze by and get on with their lives. However, what they soon realize is that no one in her classroom will be allowed to “breeze by.” She believes in and encourages her students to the point that they begin to believe in themselves. One thing she never allows students to do is tell themselves they cannot do something.

She expects her students to put forth their best effort – in other words, to try. She expects this so strongly that none of her students ever utter “I don't know” in her presence (to do so would be near blasphemy). Mrs. Ball will not accept that answer. Newcomers tend to use that as a safety answer, expecting her to move on to someone else, but they are sorely mistaken. Like a bird of prey circling, Mrs. Ball will patiently wait for that student to delve deeper for the answer. She knows that they know, so she will not accept defeat, and she teaches them to not accept it either.

Another reason Mrs. Vickie Ball should be Educator of the Year is the way that she teaches students to have inner strength. In tough situations, Mrs. Ball will kindly tell her students (male or female) to “put on your big girl panties and deal with it.” She says this often when her students feel as if life is pressuring them or that something is too difficult. Although the phrase is comical, Mrs. Ball uses it to teach her students that they can endure – they can “deal with it.”

Mrs. Ball tries to include life lessons in her teaching. Even on the first day, I remember Mrs. Ball presenting a humorous PowerPoint slide that compared a student chewing gum to a cow chewing her cud. On another occasion, she showed a PowerPoint illustrating the dangers of misplaced modifiers. As we laughed at the funny examples, we learned and became more aware of our own mistakes. As Shakespeare would say, “There is a method in the madness.”

Mrs. Ball's experience as a mother helps her build character in her students. Those in her classroom are treated more like her children than students. She takes time to work with each of us individually – something a good mother and a good teacher knows to do – 'til we understand the content. She expects all students to be well-mannered in and out of her classroom, and to develop morals and virtues to guide them in life.

I also believe Mrs. Ball deserves this award due to her outstanding teaching skills. She begins teaching before the tardy bell rings, making sure that not a second is wasted in her class. I have experienced days where I begin writing before the bell and do not finish until two minutes after class is over. Mrs. Ball teaches students to retain the knowledge they gain, rather than memorize for a test. Her assessments are designed so students must explain what they have learned, as well as apply those concepts on a deeper level.

I can say (without a doubt) that of all the tests I have taken in my life, Mrs. Ball's have been some of the most difficult, because I actually had to think. One of Mrs. Ball's best skills is her ability to realize when she has made a mistake and to correct it, which few people are humble enough to do. And so, Mrs. Ball teaches by example for me how to admit my own mistakes and correct them. She teaches her students humility.

The way I see it, Mrs. Ball's influence on my life will last for eternity. As I influence those around me (whether it be offering advice, mentoring, instructing, or counseling), I know that the part of me she has impacted will reach others. Mrs. Ball goes above and beyond what is asked of her, and it has made all the difference to me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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