■ Corey Evan / Reporter
For some high schoolers, mathematics isn’t considered a favorite as far as class subjects go. But when math teachers take the time to reach out to those students, they can become their favorite teachers. For Tahquitz High School math teacher Candi Ballard, the latest product of her efforts is the February 2018 Hemet Unified School District Recognition of Excellence Award.
Ballard was nominated for the award by Governing Board member Stacey Bailey. “It’s quite an honor to be recognized by the board,” said Ballard.
For Ballard, the work that made her the math teacher she is today, started all the way back at Sherman E. Burroughs High School in Ridgecrest, California. “I wanted to be a math teacher starting in high school; I’m a very, very rare person that started that,” she joked. “And then I ended up going to college in Indiana. They had an amazing math department able to get me through math. And I just kind of fell into it that way.”
For those students who don’t like math because it can be difficult, Ballard says she tries to subtract some of the difficulty from the equation. “I try to break it down and make it not-so-scary,” she continued. “I make it a little bit easier for them; we take things step-by-step. I also try to show them the big picture of how it kind of relates to themselves in the real world.”
Ballard also directs the school calculus club, which raises money throughout the year for club events on and off campus, including field trips to Disneyland at the end of the year. On that note, Ballard pointed out that roller coasters are designed using calculus.
“I believe that if we work hard all year, we should play hard at the end of the year,” Ballard explained. “We go to California Adventure and get to go on a three-hour tour where they teach us the physics of the rollercoaster, which is the connection to calculus.”
Students at Tahquitz are asked to “Show that Titan P.R.I.D.E.,” which means: show characteristics of Passion, Respect, Integrity, Dedication and Excellence. The last one, Excellence, stands out to Ballard the strongest. “I strive to be excellent in the model I provide for my students and expect them to strive for excellence as well.” The award includes a certificate worth $500 toward the program of the winner’s choice. Ballard intends to give several of her students scholarships using denominations of the money.
Ballard received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from St. Mary’s College in Indiana, and her master’s degree in educational technology from Azusa Pacific University, before beginning her teaching career at West Valley High School. She then made the move to Tahquitz in 2007 when the campus opened.
Before leaving West Valley, she ended up trading numbers (and later wedding vows) with HUSD Director of Assessment and Accountability, Dr. Alex Ballard. The pair met while they were both teachers there. “Our whole relationship has been here in Hemet Unified!” she said. Candi and Alex have factored three children into their family, and are adding a fourth! Their daughter Ellie, 9, and son Andy, 6, attend Cawston Elementary, while son Michael, 1 1/2, awaits his turn. The Ballards intend to educate all of their kids in Hemet, so perhaps one day they’ll all walk the halls of Tahquitz! Candi would like to thank Board Member Bailey and her husband for the support they’ve given her in earning the Excellence Award. On behalf of the Valley Chronicle, we salute you!