Amy Ballou normally tries to avoid the spotlight.
So, when the Wheelock Elementary School physical education teacher learned last fall of her nomination for LifeChanger of the Year, a national award that honors educators who make an extraordinary impact on their students’ lives, she wasn’t really comfortable promoting herself.
“It’s just not my style,” Ballou said in a phone interview Tuesday.
The support came anyway, with co-workers, friends and family and parents of some of her students singing her praises on the award program’s website. And out of 860 nominees nationwide, Ballou learned last week that she was named to the LifeChanger of the Year Honor Roll, a recognition only 30 other teachers earned for the 2019-20 school year.
Even with the recognition, Ballou insists the honor is not hers alone.
“It’s a team effort,” she said. “... It takes everybody from the principal to other teachers to the para[educators] and the tutors and the custodial staff and the kitchen crew and the office staff, bus drivers, parents and guardians.”
Ballou, who is in her 16th year of teaching and fourth year at Wheelock, credited Wheelock Principal Patty Yoerger with creating an environment focused on what’s best for students.
“She’s a true team leader, and so it allows her staff to be successful,” Ballou said of her principal. “... She’s amazing. She’s probably the one who should get this award.”
A Richmond native, Ballou graduated from Monadnock Regional High School before studying physical education at SUNY Brockport near Rochester, N.Y. She was nominated for the LifeChanger of the Year award by an anonymous family member, according to the organization’s website, and said Tuesday she’s still not sure who put her name forward. Whoever it was, though, left the selection committee, which is made up of previous years’ award winners, with a glowing review of Ballou and her work in the Keene School District.
“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,” the nomination form reads. “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.”
In addition to teaching PE at Wheelock, Ballou also runs the school’s safety patrol program and coaches gymnastics at Keene High School. According to her nomination for the LifeChanger award, Ballou constantly works to expand the PE curriculum at Wheelock. Last year, she added karate and Ga-ga ball, a sort of dodgeball played in a special octagonal pit.
Ballou, who lives in Westmoreland, received an Amazon gift card along with her recognition. She already used it to buy a book full of ideas for physical education lessons and activities that follow COVID-19 protocols.