A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

2020 Ky. Teacher of the Year Erin Ball to spend semester promoting minority teacher recruitment

By Jacob Perkins
Kentucky Teacher

Life has been different for Erin Ball since being named the 2020 Kentucky Teacher of the Year in May of 2019.

But probably not how you may expect.

“In August, my husband and I began fostering two young siblings – a toddler and a baby,” said Ball. “Going from zero kids to two kids has been an incredible whirlwind and learning how to balance being a mother and a teacher has been a challenge. Nonetheless, I think becoming a foster mom has made me a better teacher in several ways.”

Ball, a language arts teacher at Georgetown Middle School in Scott County, recently began a semester-long ambassadorship with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). During this time, she has a number of goals she plans to accomplish. One of these goals is focusing on teacher recruitment – specifically minority teachers.

“I have talked before about how all children deserve to see themselves in the stories they read, but my experience with our two African-American children has shown me even more that minorities and other marginalized groups are underrepresented or poorly represented in our society,” said Ball. “This has heightened my passion and vision for bringing more diverse representation to Kentucky classrooms.”

Erin Ball, right, assists Jayda Chenault with an assignment. Ball, a language arts teacher at Georgetown Middle School in Scott County, recently began a semester-long ambassadorship with the Kentucky Department of Education. (Photo by Jacob Perkins)

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education required state education agencies to submit a plan outlining the state’s efforts in ensuring educational equity. As defined by Ball, equity means that all students have access to the type of learning opportunities that they need, when they need them and delivered in a manner that meets the ways in which they learn best.

KRS.161.165 states that the teaching population should reflect the makeup of the student population. That is, if the student population of African-American students in Kentucky is 10%, then the number of African-Americans in the teaching workforce also should be 10%. According to the Kentucky School Report Card, Kentucky’s teacher workforce during the 2018-2019 school year consisted of 3.33% African-Americans. That percentage is noticeably low when compared to the total number of African-American students, which was 10.6% of Kentucky’s total student population.

One of the ways Ball has decided to tackle this problem is by becoming one of GoTeachKY’s teacher ambassadors.

The GoTeachKY campaign has partnered with teacher ambassadors across the state to help promote the teaching profession. Ambassadors were selected from a pool of applicants who answered the call for teachers interested in supporting this new statewide initiative. These ambassadors have three goals:

• Communicate with and inspire students in high school and college to consider teaching as a career.

• Communicate with potential and current teachers to positively capture the rewards and opportunities associated with a career in teaching.

• Support and promote the central focus areas, programs and organizations of GoTeachKY, such as Educators Rising and the Teaching and Learning career pathway.

“The primary goal of GoTeachKY is to provide equitable access to effective educators for students across the Commonwealth by recruiting and retaining high-quality educators to join this amazing profession,” said Meredith Brewer, a division director in the Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness and the project manager of the GoTeachKY campaign.

“We are thrilled to have Erin serving as a GoTeachKY ambassador,” said Brewer. “She is an extremely passionate educator who brings her enthusiasm for the profession to this important campaign.”

Erin Ball

Ball said that it’s imperative that Kentucky takes teacher recruitment seriously because the future of Kentucky’s educator workforce is sitting in classrooms through the Commonwealth right now.

“Research supports that effective teachers are the most important factor contributing to student achievement, so it is essential that we recruit and retain the next generation of teachers,” she said.

Ball added that one of the reasons that she was drawn to the GoTeachKY campaign was the Kentucky Academy for Equity in Teaching, which is a state-funded effort designed to identify and prepare a diverse pool of highly effective teachers to the profession. The program offers financial support and training to participants as they are supported and mentored by experienced and effective educators.

“This component of the campaign stuck out to me as there is a great need to ensure that our teacher workforce reflects the incredible diversity of our student populations,” said Ball. “Everyone, absolutely everyone, benefits from diversity and having a more diverse teacher workforce is important.

“Kentucky is facing a teacher shortage crisis. Additionally, the number of college students pursuing a degree in education has also declined. There is a lot of important work that needs to be done to address this crisis and I’m grateful for the privilege and opportunity to serve the profession in this capacity.”

While Ball is going to have her hands full during her sabbatical at KDE, she says she will be excited to be reunited with her students and Scott County community.

“Scott County has been incredibly supportive. I felt very loved and humbled by the enthusiasm of my students and colleagues at Georgetown Middle School,” said Ball. “It was a joy to celebrate my award with them. Buffalo pride runs deep.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve my ambassadorship, but I’ll be ready to get back home to my Georgetown Middle School family in the fall.”

Kentucky Teacher profiled Ball after she was named the 2020 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. During the interview, she reminisced on her mother walking in on her teaching her stuffed animals when she was a child.

“From a really young age, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher,” Ball said during the interview.

Fast forward to 2020 and not only is she living her dream, but she is also excelling at it.

Ball hopes that through her work with KDE and as the 2020 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, she will be able to inspire other children to follow their dream into teaching.

“Although not without its challenges, teaching is a rewarding and honorable profession,” she said. “It is a privilege to influence the next generation of leaders. I would advise anyone considering becoming a teacher to surround themselves with positive proponents of public education.”

This story first appeared in Kentucky Teacher, a publication of the Kentucky Department of Education.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment