News Release, Charles County Public Schools
North Point High School art teacher James Ball is well known among the school community. As a veteran Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) teacher of 26 years, Ball is passionate about art and art education. He is also dedicated to athletics and coaches several sports at North Point. One would not know upon first meeting Ball that he did not plan to be a teacher. The confidence and knowledge he demonstrates in the classroom are of a natural-born teacher.
For 26 years, Ball has taught students how to love art and to connect their talents to personal experiences. He strives to connect with all students, not just those in his classroom or on the playing fields. For those connections and Ball’s commitment to building relationships with all students, he was recently named the 2020 Charles County Teacher of the Year.
Ball said he was overwhelmed to learn he was North Point’s Teacher of the Year nominee and shocked when his selection for the county award was announced. “When my name was announced as the winner, I was overwhelmed with emotion and then shocked I could receive such an honor amongst all of the outstanding teachers. I am still in a state of shock,” Ball said.
Ball’s passion for baseball growing up fueled his desire to pursue a sports career after high school. That is until he took a job teaching at a Parks and Recreation summer art camp. “After my first day teaching the kids, I knew this is what I wanted to do as a career,” Ball said.
Ball is a Charles County native and graduated from La Plata High School. He said it was there that he met a teacher who fueled his passion for art. “Mr. [Joseph] Troy was my high school art teacher who made me fall in love with art,” Ball said. Troy retired in 2016, but not before Ball was able to work alongside him as a colleague. “It was amazing to be able to work with him as a fellow teacher,” Ball said.
Ball started his career with CCPS as an art teacher at Westlake High School in 1994. He was hired by former Westlake Principal Dr. John Cox. Ball said Cox helped him transition to teaching. “Dr. Cox gave me a chance. He took me under his wing,” Ball added. Ball later transferred to North Point in 2005 when the school first opened.
During his career as an art teacher, Ball has taught several art courses, ranging from art I and art II to Advanced Placement (AP) studio design. He teaches students how to use creative expression to illustrate concepts and ideas. His expectations are high – students know his class is one to take seriously. His course load provides Ball with opportunities to reach a wide variety of North Point students. His classroom focuses on active learning, where students initiate inquiry and exploration of course content.
Ball expects student achievement and pushes his students to exceed their own expectations to master course content. He requires students to maintain a weekly art journal that he reviews, as well as a digital portfolio of their class assignments. Ball said he encourages students with exceptional talent to pursue advanced courses. “If I see a kid with amazing talent, I recruit them for my advanced courses,” he said.
Theresa Alo has taught alongside Ball for 15 years. She said Ball is an example of a dedicated teacher who goes above and beyond to motivate students. “He establishes a classroom environment that allows students the ability to focus on artwork. His enthusiasm and dedication to producing hard-working and respectable young men and women is commendable,” Alo wrote in a letter of recommendation.
Aside from his love of art, Ball has a passion for athletics. He is well known as “Coach Ball” because he has coached for nearly 29 years. His coaching resume features championship titles in both boys’ basketball and cross-country track. Ball has served as the head coach for boys’ basketball and cross country since North Point first opened. He added girls’ lacrosse head coach to his list of titles in 2018. He is the only coach at the school who oversees a fall, winter and spring sport.
For Ball, coaching provides him with more time to help mentor students. He is student-focused and motivates both his athletes and art students to achieve their goals. He enjoys mentoring students, both in the classroom and on the fields of play.
Quinton Mayo graduated from North Point in 2015. He was not a student in Ball’s classes nor did he play any sport that Ball coached. However, when Mayo approached Ball about helping him increase student support at basketball games, he helped Mayo explore his ideas. Mayo eventually ended up providing commentary alongside his peers during basketball games from the stands. He said Ball shared with him that he could see Mayo doing this for a living.
After he graduated, Mayo completed two years of computer science courses in college and then remembered a conversation he had with Ball. “Mr. Ball taught me an extremely valuable lesson in high school: no matter what, chase your dreams,” Mayo said. Soon after, Mayo changed his major to communication studies and journalism. He now hosts the Wizards Outsiders show on NBC Sports Washington. Mayo credits Ball with helping him realize his dreams. “Without taking a non-basketball player under his wing in 2015, I cannot sit here today and tell you I’d be where I am without this man,” Mayo wrote in a letter to support Ball’s nomination.
As a coach, Ball strives to instill in students a strong aptitude for school spirit, loyalty and pride. He coaches students with passion, energy and excitement while teaching sportsmanship and integrity. “He is a coach who teaches life lessons by empowering athletes through volunteer and leadership opportunities in the school and community. His actions as a coach lead to one objective – the building up of young men and women,” Andy Shattuck, North Point athletic director, wrote in a nomination statement.
As the Charles County Teacher of the Year, Ball plans to share the importance of fine arts programs in student development. “The visual arts program in our county is so important to the overall development of students. Students who are enrolled in art have higher SAT scores, fewer dropouts and are academically inclined,” Ball said.
Ball is one of 24 state finalists eligible for the Maryland Teacher of the Year Award. The Maryland State Department of Education will select and announce the Maryland Teacher of the Year later this year. Ball will be honored by the Board of Education at an upcoming meeting.
Ball has a bachelor’s degree in studio art and a master’s degree in education, both from West Virginia Wesleyan College.