October 6, 2010 Edition

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Ballard recognized as finalist

Blair Ballard and Haiden Hayes lead Sheridan Smith (at left) and other Walnut Ridge fourth-grade students across the playground to get ice cream on Friday. Blue Bell Creameries honored Ballard for being named as one of 14 finalists for Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

Gretchen Hunt

Blair Ballard, who has taught fourth grade at Walnut Ridge Ben R. Bush Elementary for the past 13 years, has been selected as one of 14 regional finalists for Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

This is the second year in a row for Walnut Ridge School to have a finalist. Angela Brady, middle level math teacher, was selected last year.

"We are honored to have a regional finalist for Teacher of the Year for the second year in a row," Kim Keen, elementary principal said. "Blair is an exceptional teacher, and we are very proud of her."

The Arkansas Department of Education recently announced the finalists, who are from throughout the state.

"I'm very honored," Ballard said. "Teaching is a hard job. It's nice to be appreciated."

Ballard is a WRHS graduate and is now teaching fourth grade in the classroom in which she attended fourth grade as a student. She earned her bachelor's degree at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She is now working on her master's degree.

Prior to returning to Walnut Ridge to teach, Ballard taught sixth grade for the Elkins School District. She has also served as a cheer coach at Walnut Ridge for 11 years.

Lawrence County School District Supt. Terry Belcher said Ballard is definitely deserving of the honor.

"Mrs. Blair does an excellent job," he said. "She is very dedicated."

Ballard was selected by her fellow teachers to represent Walnut Ridge in the competition.

"My peers voted for me," she said. "It is an honor that they thought enough of me to vote for me."

Ballard is married to Jerry Ballard II, and they have four children, Payton Poole, Trey Ballard, Andrew Ballard and Josh Ballard. Payton is a sophomore at Walnut Ridge High School, and Trey, Andrew and Josh are all WRHS graduates.

She is the daughter of Glenn and Shirley Murphy of Walnut Ridge. Her father is a retired superintendent for the then Walnut Ridge School District.

The Arkansas Teacher of the Year will be named at a gala at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock on Nov. 12.

Ballard said she is proud to have been selected, but she also noted that she is rewarded by her students each and every day.

"The love you get is the most rewarding part," she said. "I have 23 kids, and I get a minimum of 23 hugs per day. At least one hug per kid."

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