WEST JEFFERSON-Scott Ballard is looking for that spark.
He knows the fiery look in the eye better than almost anyone in the education field. It’s a die hard and dedicated passion he’s seen in himself and countless teachers over the years. Without it, that same feeling of relentless determination can not be passed down to the students that teachers strive to serve.
Ballard also knows the ignition for this spark is not possible without support from the community. As an online instructor for teacher education courses, Ballard is always looking for a way to help out his peers.
About two years ago, the idea dawned on him. What better place to start then with the teachers of his hometown in Middlesboro, Ky?
The quiet Kentucky mining town is currently in an economic slump and trying to redefine itself as a community.
So Ballard borrowed the idea of an endowment golf tournament from his second home in Ashe County and begin organizing a similar event for his hometown.
“It all got started when of my classmates became principal of our old high school,” said Ballard. “I thought that was like a Twilight zone moments. That’s not in every students’ mind to one day come back and run this place. Then, another childhood friend became superintendent and I thought the time is never going to be better for me to get re-engaged with my hometown.”
After some conversation with his two friends, who are now in the school administration field, the trio began planning an event identical in format to the Ashe County Endowment Golf Tournament.
“We put the tournament together the right way,” said Ballard. “We made sure to cross all of our T’s and dot all of our I’s.”
The first run of the tournament was held June 10. More than $12,000 was netted. The tournament attracted guests as far away as Florida and Washington, D.C., he said.
Money generated through the tournament will go toward grants for any teacher in the Middlesboro School System.
“Running parallel to that, we will be building an endowment fund that in 15 or 20 years if we don’t have the tournament, there will be a substantial amount in the endowment fund that will continue what we are doing. That’s very important to me because that’s the legacy piece. We can reach back and touch a generation beyond us. When you have money in an endowment, it increases your bang for your buck. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
At the end of the day, however, it’s all about the teachers and the minds of students they sculpt.
“As a former educator myself, it was really important to me include or even prioritize teachers in this process to support the work that they do with the next generation of kids,” said Ballard. “when teachers feel supported, what happens then? The kids feel supported. It’s a trickle down effect.”
Ballard knows this from first-hand experience.
“I still do teacher education classes online and one of the things I always mention to teachers I work with is there is no cookie cutter best practices for an educator out there, but each of you can be dynamic in your own way,” said Ballard. “My goal for these grants they apply for is it will allow teachers to follow their academic passion. I’m looking for that spark. In your application I want to see that spark because in turn, that might spark one of those kids, or ten of those kids or 100 of those kids.”
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.