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Two Wesleyan Alumni Named Teachers of the Year

Mar 18, 2020

Buckhannon, WV—Two West Virginia Wesleyan College alumni have recently been named Teachers of the Year.  James “Jimmy” Ball ’91, a 26-year Charles County, MD educator, was selected North Point High School and Charles County School of the Year.  He is one of 24 finalists eligible for the Maryland Teacher of the Year Award.  Laura Leister-Burkhalter ’11, M.Ed. ’12, was chosen as the Indiantown, FL Middle School Teacher of the Year and the Education Foundation of Martin County Teacher of the Year.

Ball is known as a passionate art educator and an excellent coach.  He teaches students how to love art and to connect those talents to personal experiences.  He began his career as an art teacher at Westlake High School in 1994 and transferred to North Point in 2005.

During his career, he has taught courses ranging from Art I and II to Advancement Placement (AP) studio design.  His peers rave about his enthusiasm and his expectation of student achievement. Aside from his love of art, Ball has a passion for athletics.  His coaching resume features championship titles in both boys’ basketball and track.  He currently coaches basketball, track, and girls’ lacrosse at North Point and is the only coach to oversee a fall, winter, and spring sport.

“He is a coach who teaches life lessons by empowering athletes through volunteer and leadership opportunities in the school and community,” said Andy Shattuck, North Point athletic director.  “His actions as a coach lead to one objective—the building of young men and women.”

Ball earned a bachelor of arts in Studio Art at Wesleyan and was a member of both the Wesleyan basketball and baseball teams.

Leister-Burkhalter cites her Wesleyan educational experience as a key to her early career success.  “My time at Wesleyan prepared me to be an exceptional educator, “she stated.  “I believe the education program taught me how to educate students as a whole, giving them a well-rounded educational experience. I encourage my peers that I work with to “Be the One” for their students, always going above and beyond to make a difference for their students.”

“I have never forgotten John Wesley’s words that per posted on campus during my time at Wesleyan, she concluded. “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”

Ball and Leister-Burkhalter join Buckhannon-Middle School Teacher Brian Allman ’07 as major education award winners.  Last fall Allman received the prestigious $25,000 Milken Educator of the Year Award.  The award is known as the “Oscars for teaching.”