Tom Ballard, Mary Esther ES, Named 2019 Educational Support Professional of the Year

Tom Ballard, ME, pictured with Jerry Stuth, Plew, and Angela Squire, Edge

Tom Ballard, a Paraprofessional/Classroom Assistant at Mary Esther ES, was named the 2019 Educational Support Professional of the Year at the Annual Awards Breakfast held on February 15th and the Niceville Community Center. Angela Squire, a Classroom Assistant at Edge Elementary School, was named first runner-up, and Jerry Stuth, a Classroom Assistant at Plew Elementary School, was named second runner-up. (Pictured above are Jerry Stuth, Tom Ballard, and Angela Squire.)

Jason McClelland, Mary Esther Elementary School's Principal, stated that he is “very fortunate to have worked with Tom for the last three years. Coach Ballard goes beyond his duties as our PE Paraprofessional. He is part of our minority council and helps them with dances, cooking, and chaperoning students. Coach is the first to offer assistance with our special events such as open house, carnival, and field days. He will stay after school and stay late to make sure everything is taken care of on these special event nights. Coach Ballard is part of our safety committee. He assists with the drills that take place and is great at giving feedback to us on how to improve the safety of our school. He has assisted in the creation of our crisis plan. His background knowledge (due to working with the fire department) has been a big asset to our school.”

Not only does Coach Ballard help with all the above, he is also one of the school’s plan of care tutors. He enjoys taking a small group of students for the 12 weeks and helping improve in their academics. He has really enjoyed taking this on and loves to see the students' success. Coach Ballard will also volunteer his time to come into the school and help with summer projects such as painting halls, pressure washing, cleaning outside sheds and equipment and painting our blacktop.

“Tom Ballard is one of the most caring, organized, energized, and thoughtful person you will know,” said McClelland.  “He is able to build amazing relationships with students, staff, and parents and will put a smile on anyone's face. I am so happy that he is Mary Esther's Support Person of the Year.”

Tom Ballasch, Mary Ether’s Physical Education Coach, has worked with Ballard for eight years and stated that “Ballard has been a trusted aid helping with the management of all classes, kindergarten thru fifth grade. His duties are to help with the setup of the various games and activities, supervision of the students, and maintenance of the equipment, facilities, and grounds regarding the physical education area. In addition to his PE duties, Tom also has bus rider duty and has also been used in the cafeteria and classroom. Over the years, I've had several assistants and Tom is by far the best assistant I've ever had. He goes above and beyond his job requirements, whether it's coming in on the weekend to organize the PE equipment sheds or paint spots and lines for the basketball court. I can always count on Tom to get things done and feel confident that things will run fine even when I'm not around. Tom is great with the students being compassionate, caring yet fair and firm when it comes to discipline. Tom Ballard has made my job significantly easier whether It's day to day or a week of field day. Tom is the epitome of a physical education assistant. He's very much deserving of the Non-Instructional Support Person of the Year Award.”

Coach Ballard volunteers at school functions after hours such as the school carnival and is an active participant in the school's Minority Council functions. He is a greeter at the dances and also cooks for various functions. He is always willing to help and the children are happy to see him. He has come to the school on weekends to help with clean up, painting, building and moving items for co-workers. He helps to ensure the school has a pleasant atmosphere and remains safe for all that enters our school. He is admired by his co-workers with his willingness to help no matter what is needed or how much time it may require of him.

Congratulations to all of our School/Department Educational Support Professionals of the Year:

Sheila Cheek, Antioch Elementary School

Shelia Cleek, Antioch ES

Sheryl Merritt, Baker School

Sheryl Merritt, Baker School

Mary Goen, Bay Area Office

Mary Goen, Bay Area Office

Jennifer Drinnon, Bluewater Elementary School

Jennifer Drinnon, Bluewater Elementary School

Minnie G. Moore, Bob Sikes Elementary School

Minnie G. Moore, Bob Sikes Elementary School

April Briggs, Bruner Middle School

April Briggs, Bruner MS

Amanda Jeter, Central Complex

Amanda Jeter, Central Complex

Gloria A. Scaife, Choctawhatchee High School

Gloria A. Scaife, Choctawhatchee High School

Cheryl Simmons, Crestview High School

Cheryl Simmons, Crestview High School

Angela Windham, Davidson Middle School

Angela Windham, Davidson Middle School

Angela Whittaker, Destin Elementary School

Angela Whittaker, Destin Elementary School

Angela Squire, Edge Elementary School

Angela Squire, Edge Elementary School

Kristin McCallister, Edwins Elementary School

Kristin McCallister, Edwins Elementary School

Sally Richard, Eglin Elementary School

Sally Richard, Eglin Elementary School

Glenda McGuire, Elliott Point Elementary School

Glenda McGuire, Elliott Point Elementary School

Dia Cyrus, Florosa Elementary School

Dia Cyrus, Florosa Elementary School

Peter Pinkert, Fort Walton Beach High School

Peter Pinkert, Fort Walton Beach High School

Lisa Callamaras, Kenwood Elementary School

Lisa Callamaras, Kenwood Elementary School

Angela Fugate, Laurel Hill School

Angela Fugate, Laurel Hill School

Mark Smith, Lewis School

Mark Smith, Lewis School

Karen Vieira, Longwood Elementary School

Karen Vieira, Longwood Elementary School

Randy Henderson, Maintenance South

Randy Henderson, Maintenance South

Thomas Ballard, Mary Esther Elementary School

Thomas Ballard, Mary Esther Elementary School

Christina Dewees, Meigs Middle School

Christina Dewees, Meigs Middle School

Jung Sook "Cindy" Sung Lee, Niceville High School

Jung Sook "Cindy" Sung Lee, Niceville High School

Cheri Hinson, Northwood Elementary School

Cheri Hinson, Northwood Elementary School

Adrian Haughton, Nutrition Center (Deceased, accepted by his daughter)

Adrian Haughton, Nutrition Center (Deceased, accepted by his daughter)

Summer Phillips, Okaloosa STEMM Academy

Summer Phillips, Okaloosa STEMM Academy

Melinda Owens, Okaloosa Technical College

Jerry Stuth, Plew Elementary School

Jerry Stuth, Plew

Melissa Miller, Pryor Middle School

Melissa Miller, Pryor Middle School

Donna Campbell, Richbourg School

Donna Campbell, Richbourg School

Karen Born, Riverside Elementary School

Karen Born, Riverside Elementary School

Martha Swords, Ruckel Middle School

Martha Swords, Ruckel Middle School

Karen Kleyla-Cook, Shalimar Elementary School

Karen Kleyla-Cook, Shalimar Elementary School

Kathleen Shaw, Shoal River Middle School

Kathleen Shaw, Shoal River Middle School

Joel Sadler, Silver Sands School

Joel Sadler, Silver Sands School

Elizabeth Overstreet, Southside Primary School

Elizabeth Overstreet, Southside Primary School

Leslie Bishop, Transportation Central

Leslie Bishop, Transportation Central

Trina Fountain, Transportation North

Trina Fountain, Transportation North

Nathan Vu, Transportation South

Nathan Vu, Transportation South

Brenda Cadenhead, Walker Elementary School

Brenda Cadenhead, Walker Elementary School

Michelle Gonzalez, Wright Elementary School

Michelle Gonzalez, Wright Elementary School

Special thanks to the Educational Professional of the Year Selection Committee:

  • Marian Gilmore, 1 on 1 Paraprofessional, Silver Sands School
  • Karen Carrell, District Secretary, ESE Department
  • Linda Pigford, School Bus Driver, Retired
  • Patrick Strong, President, OCSP
  • Starla Lucas, Bookkeeper, Mary Esther Elementary School
  • Linda Evanchyk, School Board Member, District 3

Special thanks and appreciation to the following for their contributions to this year's event:

  • Corner Cafe, Bridget Spolski
  • Edible Arrangements
  • The Island
  • Niceville Community Center
  • Okaloosa Education Staff Professionals
  • Titan Technologies
  • Trophy Center
  • Jimmie Beavers - Beavers, Inc. dba, Arby's
  • Chick-fil-a
  • Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation

To see a complete photo gallery of this event, please visit the OCSD Facebook page.