After five years, Julie Ballard can now remove the word “assistant” from her title, as she is now the new principal at Tavan Elementary School.
Ballard is one of Arcadia’s own, as her family relocated to Arizona when she was four.
Ballard “lived just down the street from Hopi Elementary School,” where she was a student before moving to Saint Theresa and eventually on to Xavier and Saint Mary’s.
She holds a dual degree in Special Education and Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University and her first job was on the Apache Reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona.
“I lived and worked on the reservation,” Ballard said. “I did my student teaching there, and afterward, I taught fifth grade for a year.”
Her next career opportunity carried her cross-country to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was accepted into a graduate program at Lesley University. In addition to her studies, she taught at an alternative high school in Boston.
Ballard then transferred her program to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where she earned her Master’s in Educational Counseling with an emphasis in children with emotional disabilities. While in Albuquerque, she taught emotionally disabled teens for five years.
Married with four children, Ballard felt the tug of home, and realized that moving back to Arcadia was the cure she needed.
After working at Pappas, a school that served homeless kids, she was hired at Tavan as a special education teacher. That was 2001 – and she’s been there ever since.
Ballard became the assistant principal and held that position for five years before undergoing the rigorous candidate application process to become principal.
“The school district wanted a fair selection process,” Ballard said, “as did I. I wanted to earn the position, which I have, and now I’m so excited. All the staff is returning this year, and that’s affirmation they want me as their leader, which is awesome.”
All four of Ballard’s kids attended Tavan, and her home is so close she can walk to work.
“We’re an A+ school,” Ballard said, “and we’ve worked very hard to achieve that. We focus on each child, and my motto is we’ll do whatever it takes to educate every Tavan student. We’ll give them exactly what they need.”
Tavan also participates in the Be Kind Project.
“I believe that kindness matters,” Ballard said. “We teach our students what it means to be a kind person and to embrace one another. Since we have taught kindness, we have witnessed a tremendous change in our kids.”
However, she is reluctant to take all the credit.
“I have the most dedicated and hardest-working teachers,” Ballard said. “We’re a big family who takes care of each other. I’m excited to lead these amazing people who I learn from every day. If it weren’t for the success of the teachers and students, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”