When Tony Ballard became the assistant lacrosse coach at R-MA in the spring of 2015, he had little reason to suspect it would lead to a teaching position at R-MA Middle School that same fall. What came as even more of a suprise was when he found himself as the Middle School Prinicpal in the summer of 2017.
Mr. Ballard came to Virginia after graduating from the SUNY (State University of New York) Oneonta in 2010, opting for a warmer climate and a job, which were both hard to come by in New York State. Mr. Ballard taught third grade at an elementary school in nearby Frederick County from 2010 to 2015. One of his favorite parts of teaching, he said, is helping students to set goals and helping them think through the process of how to reach that goal. “I love to see them come up with a plan of action and get to their goal. I also enjoy seeing them progress along the journey. It’s rewarding to see their positive outlook and their results, and how that carries over into the rest of their lives.”
In addition to molding young minds, Mr. Ballard has another passion: coaching lacrosse. Growing up just 45 minutes south of Syracuse, NY, in the small town of Whitney Point, his pastime often included attending games at Syracuse University, with his favorite being lacrosse. He was an extremely successful lacrosse player (although not for Syracuse). He was captain of his high school team, which won the sectional championships, and his team at Herkimer County Community College won the JUCO National Championship in 2005.
Since arriving in Virginia, Mr. Ballard had been coaching lacrosse in a couple of different venues, including Shenandoah University and the recreational league in Shenandoah County. When a position opened up to help coach lacrosse at Randolph-Macon Academy, he applied right away. His expertise in the sport and his philosophy towards athletes—work hard, continuously improve, and be a leader—landed him the position. Then an English teaching position opened up at the R-MA Middle School for the 2015-16 school year. Mr. Ballard didn’t need to think twice.
“The timing was just right,” he said. “I was looking to try something different.”
The students saw Mr. Ballard’s focus on goals came into play during daily classes. “As teachers, we need to be planned for our days,” he explained. “If we expect our students to learn, we need to set objectives for each and every lesson. We need to make sure our students are aware of what they’re doing and where they’re going, to set them up for success.” Mr. Ballard believes in making that concept concrete for his students. He placed a learning target or objective for the day on the board and refered to it throughout the lesson.
Along with that focus came a teaching style that one might expect in a college classroom, but Mr. Ballard has adapted for middle school students. “I’m not the type to stand up there and lecture for 45 minutes,” he said. “I want the students doing most of the talking. I will be the facilitator. I let the students take control and I’ll guide the discussion, so that they have plenty of time to share their thoughts with their classmates and problem-solve.”
His teaching style worked wonders for his students. In fact, he did such a grat job that it earned him the position of Middle School Prinicpal in the summer of 2017.
When not in the classroom or coaching, Mr. Ballard might be found kayaking or hiking with his wife Beth, who is a kindergarten teacher in nearby Middletown, VA.
- M.S. Ed., Walden University
- B.S., SUNY Oneonta
- A.A., Herkimer County Community College
- R-MA Mentor