By TRAVIS MORSE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON – Few English teachers have as extensive an athletic background as Boyd Ballard.
The former member of the U.S. National Wrestling Team has wrestled professionally around the world and has even trained for the Olympics.
But it’s his new challenge as an English teacher at Mt. Vernon Township High School that has Ballard truly excited. Ballard’s first love is teaching and it’s something he’s always wanted to do.
“Teaching was always my choice,” Ballard said. “It’s a new opportunity for me. I look forward to teaching and helping coach the wrestling team.”
Ballard was one of two new hires approved by the MVTHS Board of Education at a special meeting Wednesday night. The other hire was special education instructional aide Abby Jo Morgan.
“We are excited to welcome them to the MVTHS family and know they will be an asset in helping us better serve students,” said MVTHS Principal Wes Olson in a written statement.
Ballard, who grew up on the West Coast, attended Oregon State University on a wrestling scholarship, where he was studying to be a teacher. He left the university, however, when the opportunity came to train for the Olympics.
Ballard didn’t make the Olympic wrestling team, but was a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center from 1993 to 1996.
During that time, Ballard also wrestled professionally with the U.S. National Wrestling Team, and competed in many different countries, including Bulgaria, Israel and Canada.
Even so, Ballard always knew he’d return to teaching eventually. And with literature being a passion of his, English seemed like the perfect subject.
“I was always into reading books. That led me toward the English field,” Ballard said.
After injuring his knee during training in 1997, Ballard left wrestling and ran his own landscaping company for several years. He finished his education at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in 2009.
Ballard has worked the last three years at the Litchfield Community Unit School District. His first two years there, he was a teacher’s aide and for the last year he was an in-school suspension supervisor.
“I’m a firm believer that everything comes down to effort, both (from) the students and myself,” Ballard said.
His new job at MVTHS will be his first full-time teaching position.
“He’s going to bring a very broad and interesting perspective,” Olson said of Ballard.
Ballard currently lives in Litchfield, but plans to move to Mt. Vernon for his new job.
His girlfriend, Valerie Coolbaugh, just recently returned from Afghanistan, where she had been deployed with the U.S. Army.