Personal and Professional

Michelle R. Ball

After graduating from the University of Utah with high honors, I began my teaching career in Salt Lake City. I moved back to my hometown of Idaho Falls and began teaching for Idaho Falls School District #91. My husband Doug and children-Conrad and his wife, Melissa, Rebecca, and Patrick are a tremendous support and my classroom loves the stories of my children’s life lessons and family adventures.   Teaching kindergarten, primary grades, and a multi-age classroom has given me many opportunities to understand the variety of ways children learn. I believe in hands on experiences and providing students with the opportunities to investigate, as this is when the most valuable learning takes place. I am grateful for the community teaching has given me. Developing a community is the foundation of life and learning. A career that provides so many opportunities to grow is truly a blessing.

My Spectrum program at Sunnyside Elementary School incorporates a multi-aged approach to learning that encourages students to reach their highest level of achievement. Learning opportunities are structured to accommodate students’ individual needs, interests, and leaning styles. The students learn at their academic level, not their grade level. The curriculum is based on thematic units, which are open-ended and tailored to the needs of the students. With my guidance, the students understand the need for taking responsibility for their learning, set personal goals, and take pride in doing their best.

Children facilitate their own learning process by incorporating natural curiosity in doing experiments, publishing books and their writings, and participating in interactive hands-on activities. This approach fosters a community in which each child gains a love for learning, enjoys working collaboratively, and sharing their gifts.

Because the interaction of peers in adult society is often critical in the development and refinement of ideas, one of my goals in this program is to replicate this type of interaction by mixing different age groups of children. The goal is to establish a culture of trusting and caring in which cooperation is valued over competition.

This program requires writing and inventing curriculum on a continual basis. This multi-age program provides a wonderful opportunity for students but it requires a great deal of material to effectively span the grade levels and provide learning experiences that will help the students reach their fullest potential. This has given me the opportunity to write two series of books, Brown Bag Science and Wake-Up Brain. ( I also wrote curriculum for the State of Idaho educational website. Teaching students for three years also has a moral responsibility that everyone in my classroom goes into fourth grade at grade level or beyond. Tutoring children in the summer has been so rewarding and I was given a community service award for Eastern Idaho. Teaching a classroom of first, second, and third graders has given me the opportunity to develop and publish curricula that allows the teacher and the students to explore, expand, and individualize lessons for a variety of learning styles. Teaching and learning are my passions.