Teacher Amy Balke wins Teacher of the Year award for unconventional classroom activites

Teacher of the year Amy Balke, back row center, and several other teachers in zombie makeup as part of an interactive activity in Balke’s AP psychology class.

Katey Searcy, Staff Reporter

Amy Balke, a K-Park AP Psychology and U.S History teacher, has been named the 2017 Teacher of the Year at Kingwood Park High School.

Balke, who has been teaching for four years, has spent three of those years at K-Park.

“Every year I try to build on what I did before,” Balke said. “I feel like this year was the first year that I actually got to do the fun activities that I’ve always wanted to do.”

Over this past school year, Balke has tried out a variety of fun interactive learning activities to help students better understand the material, including  a personally customized escape room that classes had to solve using information acquired over chapters.

“Y’all know how excited I was about the escape room and I spent a long time coming up with those clues,” Balke said to her students.

While her AP Psychology class was studying the brain, Balke and Talya Bean created a zombie-themed scavenger hunt where her class had to uncover the cure for the “zombies,”  actually several teachers in zombie makeup. The students used their knowledge about effects on the brain.

“I had a bunch of teachers dress up and they got really into it, which make the experience really lifelike,” said Balke.

Balke described teaching as never monotonous.

“I like that it’s different every day, and when you have the same lesson you are still doing it for different students,” she said, “so it’s never the same.”

Balke is known as being in tune with pop culture, which makes students more comfortable asking questions.

“She is so relatable to me because we both enjoy Hamilton the musical, so we are planned to sing ‘For Good’ at the end of the year together,” said Kaleigh Waskow, a student in Balke’s fifth period psychology class, referring to a song from the musical “Wicked.”