World Language Teacher of the Year- Interview with Mrs. Christina Ballew


Christina Ballew was awarded the title of World Language Teacher of the Year across the state for 2022. To be nominated for the award, the Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA) distributes packets so administrators can nominate teachers.  Three letters of recommendation are needed, one letter needs to be from an administrator or supervisor, another from a current or former student, and lastly a letter from a parent of a professional colleague. The winner is chosen by a board of FLAVA members who use a rubric to determine a nominee’s overall points. The winner is notified of their accomplishment by email.

The following details an interview I had with Frau Ballew over email while she was on maternity leave.


How did you feel when you won teacher of the year? 

I felt honored to have been chosen among all the amazing language educators across the state, who are also doing incredible lessons in the classroom. At the same time, I also felt very humbled, because I know that without those other teachers as resources, I would never have come this far in my profession. 


Do you know any of the teachers that won before you? 

In 2015, another Newport News teacher, Karen Heist, a Spanish teacher at Woodside H.S., received this award, but she is the only one I am aware of.


Why do you feel like you were nominated for the teacher of the year in the first place? 

I have to credit my supervisor who is hardly ever in her office because she is constantly in different schools supporting her teachers or in meetings fighting for them. Susanna Bailey really sees us and recognizes the things we are all doing in the world language departments across the district. I imagine she chose me, because I tend to fly under the radar, and don’t look for accolades. I’m in it for the students and not the recognition, but she was adamant that I be recognized for my hard work in the classroom and beyond over these past 16 years, and I am grateful she encouraged me to go ahead with the process. 


Why did you become a teacher? 

I became a teacher because I love learning and hoped to convey that passion of learning to kids. Specifically, I became a foreign language teacher, because I knew there would be opportunities to go beyond a textbook and even a classroom to “teach” my content, and to really give students the tools to be successful in another country if they wanted to be.


How will this award influence your teaching? 

It already has in a way. After the Covid years, coming back to teaching was tough, and now with post-Covid apathy, it’s been even harder to motivate students to learn. But receiving this award has lit a new fire in me to go back into the classroom with the passion I had before and look for new ways to excite students about language learning. I have been on maternity leave since mid-September, so it has been a little surreal since I have not actually been in the classroom much since receiving the award. I am, however, very much looking forward to returning and putting all of this newfound passion to work.


What do you think your strength is that won you the teacher of the year?

Probably my interest in taking learning beyond the classroom. I am a proud member of Newport News Sister Cities and we have a partnership with the city of Greifswald in northern Germany. Together we have organized several student exchange opportunities that have been a way to bring the curriculum to life and make the classroom experience more memorable.


What advice would you give to other teachers? 

Find your people! Teaching is definitely a team sport, and I would be nothing without my incredible world language team and lead team here at Menchville and the German teachers across the district and the state. That is one thing that virtual learning helped me recognize more than ever. There are unending resources in the team of people who all share a passion and dedication to teaching and learning. You just have to reach out!