Educating children a community-wide endeavor for DeLalio Elementary teacher - Camp Lejeune Globe: Carolina Living

Educating children a community-wide endeavor for DeLalio Elementary teacher

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Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2018 12:00 am

This week our featured teacher is Kara Ball, a 4th grade teacher at DeLalio Elementary School on Marine Corps Air Station New River.

Ball has been teaching at DeLalio for five years, but she has a total of 11 years of experience in the educational field.

Ball graduated with a Bachelors degree from Towson University and a Masters degree from Walden University.

Q. What encouraged you to pursue your job as an educator? 

A. My grandmother was an elementary teacher and I wanted nothing more than to be like her. When I was 7 years old, she gave me a “classroom in box” pretend play kit. Every summer I would host school— using that kit — to my younger siblings pretending to be their teacher.

Q. What encouraged you to pursue an education within your specific age level?

A. I have always wanted to be a teacher but the type of teacher I would become changed throughout my life. Up until 10th grade I had only ever wanted to be an elementary teacher. Growing up I was diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities and school was hard. In 10th grade, I had a teacher tell me I was “stupid and never going to amount to anything”.

He didn’t feel he should have to be burdened or bothered by students with disabilities, like myself in his general education classroom. That year, I decided I was going to become a special education teacher, that way students like myself would never be made to feel the way I felt on that day. I graduated college with a dual certification in special education and elementary education. I have taught self-contained special education as well as inclusion general education.

Q. What is your main classroom philosophy?

A. My philosophy in the classroom is that students should be given the opportunity to construct their knowledge. Rather than a teacher telling them what they should know or understand students should be given the opportunities to discover the world around them through inquiry-based activities that put them in charge of their learning.

Q. What is a lesson you have learned from your students?

A. In my first year of teaching, I taught self-contained special education. I was so concerned about writing the perfect lessons and staying in compliance with the paperwork that I neglected to get to know the students I was teaching at the time. I knew everything that came in their records, but I didn’t know their likes, dislikes, interests, or passions. I learned the most valuable lesson of my teaching career from students that year— Teachers can’t teach what they don’t know and that includes our students.

Q. What is your favorite part of being an educator?

A. My favorite part about being an educator is being able to cultivate curiosity in my students. I want to ignite a passion for learning that can’t be quenched. I want my students to question the world around them, seek out the truth, and leave the world a better place than they found it.

Q. What advice would you give to upcoming/new educators?

A. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or fail in front of your students. Students need to see adults struggle and persist in the face of challenges. We model how to solve math problems and follow the writing process, but we also need to model social emotion skills. If we want our students to be risk-takers and not to fear failure, then we have to model that behavior for them as well.

Q. What are three words that would describe your life outside of the classroom? (hobbies, interests, etc.)

A. Woodworking, photography, “dog mom”

Q. What is a favorite memory from your teaching career?

A. Three years ago, my school received a 3D printer and I wanted to plan a lesson that connected our students with the community but was also an innovative use of our 3D printer. Our 5th grade students took on designing replacement 3D hermit crab shells to replace the shells tourist collect from the beach. When you take a shell souvenir from the beach, you are reducing the shelter options for the wild hermit crabs.

Prior to this project the students would bring me shells from the beach as a gift and I had this entire shelf full of shells behind my teachers’ desk. At the end of this project, a few of the 5th grade students who had given me these shells as a gift were brave enough to ask for them back, wanting to return them to their rightful place at the beach.

That moment is what I live for as a teacher. When students realize they have the potential to change the world but also create the world they want.

Q. What advice would you give to a parent of a 4th grader?

A. A productive struggle is a good thing for students to experience. When your child is having a difficult time help them to problem solve, show them how to work through the issue they’re having and provide them with resources to help them find a solution on their own. This will help them to build independence, adaptability, resiliency, resourcefulness and perseverance. These skills will help their child find success in college, career and life.

Q. What changes would you like to see implemented in the school system within the next five years?

A. In the next five years, I would like to see increased access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and computer science courses at the elementary level. Many times, these programs are only offered in secondary schools and computer science courses are typically only provided in the specialized program. STEM careers and computer science professions are some of the fastest growing jobs and yet we limit access to the coursework necessary to prepare our students for these options. Data shows time and time again that we lose our female and minority student’s interest in these areas by middle school, which is why it’s important to implement STEM education at the elementary levels.

Q. What are the most significant challenges you face as an educator in a military town?

A. One of the biggest challenges I face as an educator is how frequently our military-connected students move. They often enter and exit the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) system multiple times in their lives, not always from a DoDEA school to a DoDEA school. It’s difficult at times to identify what they have or have not learned as a result of frequently moving. We have incredible support systems in place that help us to transition our students in and out of school, making this challenge a little more manageable.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share about being an educator?

A. I think it’s important for all stakeholders involved (parents, teachers, admin and the community) to remember that we all want the same thing and that’s for the students to be successful. DoDEA provides excellence in education, to every student, every day, everywhere.

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