The Woodward News

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May 8, 2014

Balch wrapping up teaching career

Lynette Balch remembers her days of going to her father's classroom when she was 5-years-old.

"Each afternoon at 5 my mother would send me out the front door and watch me walk across the city park to Burr Oak High School where Mr. Bradrick taught science, math, and coached. I walked the path he had worn in the grass, knowing that as soon as I walked into the building, I would be greeted by a wonderfully clean smell of floor wax, fresh paint, and disinfectant," Balch said.  "I might find him in his room finishing up for the day or in the gym going over some last details with his team, but he always made time to let me write on the chalkboard, to search through his desk for treasures, or help him put up a new bulletin board.

"His ready smile, tireless energy, and great sense of humor made him a favorite with students and faculty alike. In my five-year-old mind and heart, he was my hero. Now years later, when I enter my own classroom and notice that familiar smell, I am still flooded with the same feelings of love and encouragement that always surrounded me as a child in the classroom of Mr. Bradrick, my role model and my father."

Those memories helped spark Balch's 34-year career in education, a career she will wrap up at the end of this school year. A reception for Balch, who teaches first grade, will be held today (May 8) at the Early Childhood Center at 4 p.m.

Balch comes from an education background, but had a love of art. She enrolled at Fort Hays State College wanting to be an artist.

"After visiting the "creative cubicles" of the Hallmark (greeting cards) offices in Kansas City, I became discouraged with my career choice and entertained the thought of quitting college," she said.  "My Uncle Walt and Aunt Dar became my cheerleaders working tirelessly to convince me that I should use my talents in the classroom.

"I agreed to change my course of study to education. It was like 'Wow, this is fun.''  

She graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a minor in art.

Lynette married Greg Balch in 1980 and the newlyweds moved to Woodward. She started her career at Oak Park School, teaching kindergarten. At the time, Woodward rotated teachers between schools every three years. Balch taught at all of the Woodward elementary schools except Westwood. She taught kindergarten, transitional first grade, and first grade.

"Those first years I had a wonderful staff, a lot of seasoned teachers, ladies who retired soon after I started," Balch said. "I have been blessed in Woodward to have understanding supervisors most of the time. I've developed wonderful friendships with people I would never have gotten to know. Parents, paras, volunteers, classroom friends.

"I am guilty of dragging my family along with my career. Teaching has been the center of my world. My boys (she has two) started coming to school with me in their baby carriers. I have roped my husband and dad into helping me build things I needed for my classroom."

Lynette was not at Madison Park long but she was responsible for "the little building in the playground."

She was transferred to Madison Park to teach transitional first grade and the only classroom available was the portable in the playground.

"The building was very depressing with a black interior. I went to Mr. Denton (Bill Denton, Superintendent) and told him I would never be able to teach in there because it was so depressing," Balch said. "I asked him if I could paint it. I think he just said yes so I wouldn't keep asking. I roped Greg into painting it along with the help of David Beaner. I picked out antique schoolhouse red for the outside."

Balch was selected Teacher of the Year for 2002-2003 and she is nationally certified in early childhood education.

She believes all children can lear if they are "taught according to their developmental level and in their style of learning."

Her goal as a teacher-  "That all children will advance academically, socially, and developmentally while they are in my classroom."

"If you will take the first few weeks of school to really develop a relationship with your students, it will pay off in ways you can't imagine. When you build that connection by learning about your students, their home life, their learning style, you will be on your way to a successful year with the kids," she said.  "Come in prepared to give your life to what you do. This is not like any other career. You will be instrumental in making changes in the lives of children."

Balch has been very active in the community. She have been involved in the Relay for Life, Woodward Elks Rodeo Queen committee, NWOSA board, Kids Inc track coach, Alpha Gamma Charitable Organization, Friends of the Library board. She also designed the Woodward Pride Logo.

Lynette and Greg have made a few plans for her retirement. She has a couple of children stories she would like to get published along with her father's poems or maybe learn to enjoy her front porch in the mornings.

"I will miss the thousands of children that I will not get to teach." she said.  "Every day when a student tells you "I love you Mrs. Balch or "You're the best teacher I ever had"...even though you are only the second one they have ever had. When a student mastered a sill and then uses the skill to work independently! That is a feeling of accomplishment for the student and for me!"

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