Parent Commendations

Cheri Cook
Marcie Baird
Dane and Angela Watkins
Kathleen Leavitt
Jinger Watkins
Andrea Brinkley
Elena Manwaring
Christine Ankeny
Lynn Battisti
Candice Ireland
Steve and Shelly Smede
Aniko Snyder
Becky New
Margret Reeb
Sarah Browning



When we first moved to Idaho in 1999 the classes at Sunnyside Elementary we needed for our two children were full. The only options we had were to transfer to another school or enroll them in something called a Spectrum program that had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders all in one class. Despite our skepticism and nervousness we enrolled them in Spectrum. What an incredible experience and blessing that choice ended up being! In fact, this program impacted our children and our family so much that as our other children reached 1st grade, we begged, pleaded and did everything in our power to get them enrolled in the spectrum program – specifically in Mrs. Ball’s class.

Spectrum is a fun, hands on learning environment. It is not a traditional ‘sit at your desk and listen’ while the teacher teaches the various subjects. It is a class where concepts are learned by: practicing and performing plays and/or musicals; participating in hands-on experiments; learning in small groups as the class rotates through various centers where volunteers teach them about a particular subject, country, event, etc.; completing literature studies where the class may study one particular subject in detail for that whole week; etc. Spectrum is CREATIVE learning at its finest!

One of the things we love and appreciate about the spectrum program is that there are no “grade level” boundaries. If a second grader whizzes through 2nd grade math, they move to third grade, if they whiz through that they can move to 4th grade math. We have had children at all ends of the spectrum (no pun intended). Some tested at average grade level, some struggled severely with reading, and some tested extremely advanced. Yet each child thrived and progressed not only at the level they were at, but way beyond that level! Furthermore, each child felt that they were the most amazing and incredible child Mrs. Ball had ever taught in her whole career!

We also love how key subjects are constantly reinforced throughout the three years. At some point during those three years, each student becomes a “teacher” for the younger children, thus the older students truly have to master each subject so that they can help reinforce, teach, and practice whatever lesson or subject Mrs. Ball is teaching the class.

Spectrum is an amazing program and Mrs. Ball is an amazing teacher. She has a natural ability to love everyone and see the VERY BEST in each person. She is nurturing, understanding and people oriented. She has a positive disposition and outlook on life that is contagious. She is goal oriented and teaches the children on a constant basis that they can accomplish ANYTHING with hard work, determination and dedication. Mrs. Ball will never know how much she has influenced every member of our family. We are better people because of her. She is truly a gift!

Cheri Cook

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What a privilege it has been to have Michelle Ball be a part of our family’s lives for over 13 years. Michelle has a rare gift as a teacher. Each of my four children were lucky enough to have Michelle as their introduction to education. Each child was unique and each had their own special challenges, but each were nurtured and encouraged and appreciated for their own separate abilities. I was privileged to volunteer in the classroom and be a part of Mrs. Ball’s “community”. Michelle teaches and functions at a very high level and when you interact with her you find yourself only giving your best, and loving being a part of each project or celebration. Mrs. Ball has a special ability to find the best in each child and to help them develop their talents and strengths. To Michelle each child has a “gift” and each child knows what those gifts are and feels special because of them. To me Mrs. Ball has the “gift” of teaching, a very rare gift I have discovered. The years our family was able to be a part of Michelle’s SPECTRUM class will always be our favorite years.

Marcie Baird & children Bethany, Britton, Devin & Hayden

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To state it simply, Mrs. Ball’s Primary Spectrum class is amazing! Our family has been with Mrs. Ball for the past seven years, consecutively. Our third child is just finishing first grade.

Mrs. Ball believes in and teaches the true Spectrum philosophy. Children are truly allowed to go at their own pace. If a child excels academically, they are encouraged and helped to continue advancing. By the same token, if a child is struggling, Mrs. Ball uses her experience to pin-point and solve the problem.

Mrs. Ball creates the most cohesive class. The children associate and play with each other regardless of age, grade or gender. Mrs. Ball knows what personalities will work well together; and she has a special way of fostering those bonds early on.

Rarely do you find a teacher who truly loves what they do. Mrs. Ball is the exception. She shows that love everyday through her dedication to excellence and the way she interacts with her class.

While children in Mrs. Ball’s class leave third grade with a superior academic foundation, the greatest asset they leave with is their unwavering confidence and high self-esteem. Throughout their three years in her class, she proves to them that with hard work and dedication, they can achieve anything. Mrs. Ball’s students fully believe that they are bright and beautiful, inside and out.

Thank you, Mrs. Ball, for being one of the greatest influences for good in the lives of our children, and our whole family.

Sincerely,
Dane and Angela Watkins

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We moved here to Idaho from Maine the summer before my son, Sam, was to start first grade. When I went to register him for school the secretary asked me if I would like to place him in a Spectrum Class. I didn’t know much about it but after receiving some information I decided to give it a try.

Mrs. Ball, (my friend, whom I now call Michelle) reaches children at their individual level. She never belittles or is condescending. She finds them where they are and lifts them to their highest potential. She expects the best from each child and gives them the tools they need to succeed. After spending some time volunteering in the class, it was clear to me that the younger children learn a lot by just simply being surrounded by the older students. But I think that the best part is the growth of the older children as they set their own goals that permit them to stretch and excel. They happily take on the role of leader as they support and mentor the younger kids.

Michelle fosters a nurturing environment. Each child feels free to ask questions and share ideas without the fear of being embarrassed or made fun of. She teaches that each person has gifts that are unique and special to them. She also teaches that learning and hard work are fun and build self esteem.

Sam is now in 5th grade. His experience in Michelle’s Spectrum class was wonderful. He learned so much more than just academics. He learned life lessons that he will benefit from even into adult hood. He is happy, confident, and outgoing. He makes friends easily and with many different kids with many different personalities. He is open-minded and non-judgmental. I feel that his time in Spectrum has taught him to respect others and their gifts. He is willing to listen to all sides of a situation without jumping to conclusions. He has a desire to be informed about things happening in the community and in our country.

I am glad that Sam had the “Spectrum” experience. It truly has broadened his horizons.

Kathleen Leavitt

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My experience with Mrs. Ball and the Spectrum Program has been nothing but wonderful! I came to Sunnyside not knowing anything about what Spectrum was. I had only heard these great things about it. I decided to observe Mrs. Ball’s classroom one day to see for myself. Michelle was more than happy to have me come and be apart of her classroom. She answered all of my questions. While observing, I was so impressed with how the children were genuinely encouraging each other while helping each other out.

Emerson has a summer birthday so I decided to hold him back a year before Kindergarten started. One of my concerns was that I wanted him to be able to go ahead, where he is older, and not be held back if he wanted to. One thing that impressed me about Spectrum was the philosophy of allowing children to move at their own pace and encourage them to reach their full potential of learning.

Mrs. Ball does not let anything slip by without notice. If a child is struggling in an area, she takes hold of that and fixes it right away. If a child is moving right along and is able to move ahead of their grade, Mrs. Ball notices, and will encourage the child to stretch and reach for the stars. Every child in the Spectrum classroom is treated as an individual and the needs are met regardless of their learning ability.

Emerson’s confidence level has increased in Spectrum. I truly believe that with a strong sense of self-worth and confidence, a child can move mountains. Mrs. Ball believes in building the children up daily. She has a way of bringing out the absolute best in a child…. sometimes things that a parent could not do with their own children. They all know that she genuinely cares for them. Michelle believes, and so do her students, the children are very bright and can contribute so much to society. I can’t imagine Emerson learning in a different atmosphere than Spectrum. His experience in Spectrum has given him an amazing starting block to his pursuit to learning.

Jinger Watkins

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Our experience in the Spectrum program at Sunnyside Elementary School was spectacular. We came into spectrum not knowing a lot about the program, but knowing that there was something special about Mrs. Ball. Not only were our feelings about Mrs. Ball’s love for education and children correct, but we learned that the Spectrum Program was equally as wonderful.

The group of students and facilitator worked together as a team to see that each and every student succeeded. The result was that not only did they learn, but they did so in a way that built their confidence as a student. By seeing that they have something to contribute, perhaps by working with a younger student, each student was made to feel like and important member. The younger classmates are given terrific role models because the older classmates are responsible and respectful from previous years of character nurturing.

There is a special atmosphere of respect for each student for who they are, and where they are at on their own learning journey. The gifts that each individual has are encouraged to be shared with the group. This atmosphere makes an environment which encourages each to be the best they can be by working together and learning from the facilitator’s instruction and from each other. Creativity and originality thrive in this setting, and parents seem eager to help and be a part of this learning family.

I began to substitute teach frequently for Spectrum teachers, and continued to be amazed at the amount of learning accomplished by the methods put into place in the Spectrum program. My daughter, years later, continues to be at an advanced level, I believe due to the excellent start she got on her education as part of the Spectrum Program. I witnessed students of all abilities and personalities prosper as students and citizens in Spectrum. Below grade level students seemed to advance with a sense of personal pride and accomplishment at their own level, respected and valued the same as students above grade level. This environment I believe is so important for students to prosper.

The idea of having fewer grade level students resulting in fewer friend choices proved not to be an issue at all. Although there were fewer grade level students in her class, because she grew to be so confident and comfortable in the school, she had no problems making friends outside her classroom. She also had as much fun and friendship with younger and/or older students as she might have had with fellow classmates within a classroom of students her age. I often wondered if she had more friendships due to the fact that there was not a competitive feeling between classmates, which we have experienced in some traditional settings.

I am so thankful for the experience we had in Spectrum. From my work as a substitute and as a parent, I know that the facilitators are passionate about what they do, and the Spectrum methods of teaching. We have nothing but positive and great things to say about the program, and would encourage parents and students of all abilities to do all they can to participate in the program.

Sincerely,
Andrea Brinkley

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Spectrum has been the very best thing we could have ever done for our daughter. She went in as a very timid and unsure 1st grader and is leaving as a confident, strong, intelligent 3rd grader. Her self confidence has soared and her academic achievements have grown leaps and bounds.

By being able to work at her own level for longer than would have been acceptable in the traditional classroom, she was able to get a firm understanding and foundation of knowledge. She is now above grade level in every subject. I fully believe it was the spectrum program that helped her achieve this.

She has made many dear friends of all ages , both male and female, and feels confident in most situations because of this. Being able to mentor younger children has really given her self esteem a boost. She comes home beaming when she has been able to teach her math or reading skills to one of the first graders. There is such a sense of community and safety in the classroom that she often comes home with little notes of thanks and appreciation from her younger peers.

The “sharing” assignments have had so much value for our daughter. Not only have they given her the courage and confidence to stand in front of a group and speak, but they have given her the skills she will need in the future for research and reports. She has become a fountain of knowledge because of her preparations for “sharings”, not to mention what she has gained from listening to other students’ presentations.

We have had such a great experience with spectrum that we hope to place our other children in it when the time comes. I’m thankful to my school district and to Mrs. Ball that spectrum has been and will be part of our lives.

Sincerely,
Elena Manwaring

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To paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning: How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. We love thee to the depth of our critical thought and breadth of our compassion and height our creative minds can reach…

I am lucky to say my two sons are in Ms. Ball’s class right now. I only wish they could be in her Spectrum class until they graduate from high school. We love her class because she is the rare teacher who can combine an untraditional, outside-of-the-box approach effectively with solid academics. Children do not stagnate at a particular grade level, they constantly move up to the best of their abilities.

The Spectrum program is good, but Ms. Ball is the best. Michelle is all things wise and wonderful. My sons couldn’t be in better hands. Michelle herself is driven, dedicated to each child doing her or his best. She takes personal time and resources to make her class the best. I’m amazed at how well she knows the academic and emotional levels of each of her 24 children.

One of my favorite things about Ms. Balls’ class is the importance of critical thinking. Just this morning I overheard one of my sons telling the other, “You’re making an assumption!” I love that despite the perspective, her children learn to look around all things in life, not as either thus or so, but in betwixt. They learn to look at academic and social subjects analytically. And whatever the conclusion, support it based on facts, not supposition. But with facts comes compassion. The children look at the world individually and compassionately.

Another of my favorite things about Michelle’s class is the wonderful C r e a t i v i t y. Because I spend some time in the class and see how the kids really dislike rote instruction in workbooks (done only in case they graduate to another class relying on them or for standardized test experience), I appreciate all the time Michelle put in on her own literature-studies (the kids call them “lid-studies”), world-studies, science, and even mathematics. These children learn both analytically and creatively!

Speaking of creativity, I know the art projects and plays in Ms. Balls’ class are unique to her class. My sons teach me about art. I don’t have enough wall space to exhibit the beautiful pieces of which they’re so proud. And all of the children are talented.

In Michelle’s class all of the children have talents; all have different and individual gifts they contribute. Third graders encourage and share knowledge with first and second-graders. Younger children work harder for older peers–older children learn by teaching. And Michelle ignites a spark in each of them, so they all strive to do more, better, their best.

The class is friendly, a free-from-embarrassment, open community. They take care of one another. Kindness and empathy exist along with strong academic substance.

So why do we love thee Ms. Ball? Simply because you are the best!

Love and Sincerely,
Christine Ankeny

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Both of my children had the opportunity to be part of Michelle Ball’s Spectrum class when they were in grades 1-3. They are two years apart and were able to spend a memorable and wonderful year learning together. In this class there was a wonderful combination of freedom and creativity within a structured curriculum. Not only did they learn in a rich, positive, supportive community, they also have friendships from this class that have lasted through high school. I can honestly say this is an experience that will last a lifetime. Mrs. Ball is a hero to my whole family.

Lynn Battisti

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It’s been 3 years now with Mrs. Ball, and we are coming to the end of our journey and it has been a great one. Hunter loves this class. As a first grader he looked up to the 2nd and 3rd graders. He was motivated to work hard and was taught well by them and Mrs. Ball. Hunter has always been challenged in this class. He is now a 3rd grader and a true leader. He reads at a 8th grade level and his scores on the ISATS are off the charts. The plays these children put on are so fun. They work so hard and I know Hunter has really enjoyed participating in them. He does have the gift of acting. No matter if your child needs special attention or he or she is above average, Spectrum is wonderful for both. You couldn’t ask for a more caring and wonderful teacher! It truly is her life, she loves these kids! It doesn’t get any better than this.

Candice Ireland

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I met Mrs. Ball for the first time at a workshop I was teaching. Her enthusiasm and energy convinced me that I had to have my girls in her program. We moved within the Sunnyside boundaries and both of my daughters enrolled in her primary Spectrum classes. They each spent three years with Mrs. Ball and loved every minute of it. They learned so much and had such a variety of experiences. My older daughter was encouraged to stretch and challenge herself both academically and artistically. Next year, as a freshman she will qualify for three honors courses and will be a leader in her yearbook course. My younger daughter came into Mrs. Ball’s class as a nonreader, but by the end of third grade, she was reading at a fifth grade level. Mrs. Ball never gave up on her, even tutoring her during the summer months so that she could transition successfully to 4th grade. Both of my girls still idolize Mrs. Ball, and when my 14-year-old was stressing out about school and personal life a few weeks ago, she asked if she could go to Sunnyside and talk to Mrs. Ball about it. How amazing is it that she would still consider Mrs. Ball to be such a mentor and advocate, five years after leaving her program! We have never met another teacher like her; she has a talent and a love for teaching that is unequaled.

Steve and Shelly Smede

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Our daughter is in first grade and enjoys the Spectrum experience. She has no problem being great friends with all grade levels. Some of her closest friends are the third graders. All children have different levels of maturity and being in the spectrum class gives your child the opportunity to be around a broader spectrum. I was worried my first grader would learn unsuitable conduct from the older grades, however, Mrs. Ball instills morals, ethics, and manners in the class and this has not been an issue. I recommend the Spectrum experience and we are looking forward to our youngest child being in the class.

Aniko Snyder

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Many of my children have been through Primary Spectrum. They have each had their individual challenges and gifts that they brought to the spectrum class. Primary Spectrum was a fabulous environment in which my children learned that the individual can blossom through the community of the class. Primary Spectrum taught them the building blocks of being a great friend without the concern of uniformity. They learned to celebrate their successes and that the WHOLE class, as friends, celebrated with them. Primary Spectrum taught them the pride of mentoring another student.

Through this class a student is able to break away from the sometimes rigid curriculum found in a traditional class and achieve his own pace whether that may be slower or more challenged. And by doing this, the student experiences more successes. Primary Spectrum also allowed my children to accept the differences in gifts, learning levels, challenges, etc. that we all have. And as my children have gotten older, I see these lessons coming back in conversation and actions. Primary Spectrum has given my children friendships that follow them through other schools. It has been nice to see my children say hello to friends that that they knew in their Spectrum class when they have faced new environments, such as middle school.

I feel that each of my children that went through Primary Spectrum was allowed to be challenged as individuals. I also feel that this community of friends taught them lessons beyond books. I feel Primary Spectrum celebrates the individual by being a community of supportive friends.

Becky New

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When my son first started in Mrs. Ball’s spectrum class, 3 years ago, I knew he would be getting a great education. What I didn’t know was how much more he would gain from this experience. Mrs. Ball has taught my son how to do his best and be proud of his work; how he can teach others as well as learn from them; and how to have compassion for others. She is always incorporating creative ways for her students to learn. My son especially loved learning about the planets as a play. He is still singing the songs. Mrs. Ball has been an intregal part of my son’s acedemic and social growth at Sunnyside. I truly loved having her as my son’s teacher and value everything she has taught him. She will always be a treasured friend in our lives.

Margret Reeb

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My daughter has to be one of the luckiest students in the area! She has Mrs. Ball at Sunnyside Elementary for a teacher. Mrs. Ball teaches in a multi-grade spectrum classroom. She is beyond dedicated to her students and their education. She strives to meet individual needs of each student in her class, giving instruction on whatever level is appropriate. The students know that she expects excellence, and she gets it. The students are always so happy and engaged in the classroom. It’s good to know my daughter’s educational foundation is being built by Mrs. Ball. I laugh when I think about how my daughter signed a note to Mrs. Ball—“Your favorite student!”, and nothing more. Mrs. Ball makes each student feel like her favorite, she makes each child a priority. We are fortunate to have Mrs. Ball at Sunnyside; she’s one in a million!

Sarah Browning

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