Saturday, August 30, 2008

Patty, Reading Readiness, and Mrs. Ann Ballinger

My sister Patty - Patricia Joanne Frazier - was born approximately 11 months after me (September 13, 1967).

Patty Jo - well - we were (and are) two totally different beings. Her - with her blond hair and blue eyes - me with my reddish-brown hair and brown eyes. She was petite. I was tall. She was artistic. I was "bookish". We shared a room for many years and let me tell you - that was both a curse and a blessing (but more on that later).

For her half-day of Kindergarten, Patty had Miss Crouse (soon to be Mrs. Ludwig). I made the assumption that when Patty moved to first grade, she would have Mrs. Lawson too (like I had). But when we went to pick up our information packets from school, I learned that she was going to be in Ms. Ballinger's class.

As a seven year old, I knew three things about Mrs. Ballinger. First, she was a tall, thin lady with dark dark hair. Second, her classroom was all the way over there and she didn't have as many students as some of the other teachers. Third, the woman was obsessed with bears. As in the stuffed kind.

When I scanned the information directory (a black, felt board, encased in class, located right inside the front entrance), it said that Mrs. Ballinger was a "Reading Readiness" teacher.

Huh? Reading Readiness?! Yep. It was explained to me that this was a grade which was between Kindergarten and First Grade where kids who had difficulty with some of the basics - phonics, reading, etc...were placed so that they could have an extra year of intensive attention dedicated to bringing them up to snuff.

My sister thrived in Reading Readiness. Mrs. Ballinger was just what she needed.

Through the extra and intensive 1:1 time with her teacher, we learned that she had dyslexia (although I'm not sure if in the early 70's - they called it that).

In addition, Mrs. Ballinger figured out that my sister was an artist and she somehow facilitated an opportunity for my sister to gain additional instruction through the Fort Wayne Arts School. It must have been free because there would have been no way that my family could have afforded to pay for it.

Two days a week, my mother would drive my sister over to the school (I think it was Wednesday after school and Saturday mornings). The building pictured here was a familiar site for me as I always had to ride along.

Truth be told, I was a little jealous that my sister was getting all of this attention. I couldn't even color within the lines and here she was, whipping out these masterpieces which were oooooed and awwwweeeedddd by adults everywhere.

Even today, I am still completely envious of how she can hand sketch a mural on the bedroom wall of one of her kid's room's. The results are always beautiful and I curse the heavens for not blessing me with the same talent. And just to be clear - I can now color within the lines...I just choose NOT TO :).

When I went back to Indian Village in May 2008 to visit, I learned that Mrs. Ballinger had passed away in 2003. When the school underwent remodeling, they created a mural to honor her.

As I looked at it, I smiled. And then I thought about my sister. She was incredibly lucky to be in a school system which recongized that she needed extra assistance before entering first grade. And then, to have a special teacher like Ann Ballinger - that was the icing on the cake. That woman was far ahead of her time. Her individualized approach to solving the challenge of - why is this child having difficulty reading was just so rare. The impact she made on students like my sister - that's a legacy we'd be all lucky to leave behind.


ANN D. BALLINGER, 74, of Fort Wayne, died Monday, Dec. 1, 2003, at Lutheran Hospital. Born Aug. 22, 1929, in Logansport, she was a 1951 graduate of Ball State with a Masters degree from St. Francis University. Mrs. Ballinger was a Fort Wayne Community Schools teacher, who taught for 40 years, retiring in 2000. She began teaching in New Castle, in 1951, and moved to Fort Wayne, in 1952. She taught at Old Lakeside Elementary, Ward Elementary, Lafayette Center Elementary, Waynedale Elementary and Indian Village Elementary . She was Secretary for the American Association of University Women, Secretary of the Fort Wayne Womens Club, a member of the Local, State and National Reading Associations, Local, State and National Retired Teachers Associations, Coordinator of Project Read at Indian Village School, and a member of Phi Delta Kappa Educational Fraternity. She is survived by her husband, Norman H. Ballinger of Fort Wayne; sons, John S. Ballinger of Fort Wayne, Steven K. Ballinger of San Francisco, Calif.; granddaughter, Lauren Ballinger, of San Francisco; and brother, William Reutebuch of Chicago. Private service is Friday at Klaehn, Fahl & Melton Winchester Road Chapel, 6424 Winchester Road, with visitation from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Memorials to Project Read at Indian Village School.


...tom... said...

" ...who taught for 40 years, retiring in 2000. "

Wow. She taught for _40_years_. Until she must have been nearly seventy..!! (If my math is correct.)


Another amazing post, Kristina. Making your readers care about a time, a place, a person they never knew. But now have every reason to honor and respect and celebrate ...and mourn her passing.

( Though I wryly note there is no sense of mourning/loss in your post. Rather a thankfulness and acknowledgment of what once was. Very nicely done, as always.)


Kristina said...


Thank you for your very kind comments.

It must be strange getting to know me backwards (meaning you kinda know me now through one persona and through this blog, you're getting the back story ;)).

I had an incredible childhood. It wasn't perfect. It wasn't without a ton of tragedy and pain. But it was filled with unforgettable moments, people, places, and things and that's what makes it so memorable for me.

ida said...

i went to reading readyness too. i was at washington center school way, way, way on the north side. i was not a product of not being able to do the work. they held me back becouse i was not friendly with other kids and i didnt smile all the time. my parents didnt stand up for me and it hurt. well the poor teacher that got me in reading readness knew that i was done wrong but she went ahead and let me read to my hearts continent. she was kind to me. i am still not the friendly person type and i still explain that i am not smiling but i have God in my heart. but i have learned to be more out going when needed. and i do love your blog.

de_tokeville said...

I'm late to the party. Didn't know Mrs. Ballinger had died and came across this accidentally tonight while googling something else. Kind of a twilight zone moment.

She seemed like a very nice person and probably would have been a competent if not exceptional lawyer or doctor had women been allowed to aspire to such things in her day. We had a few teachers who were the creme de la creme. Lucky us, although it's a shame they didn't get a chance to do other things were it their desire. On the other hand, male teachers in those days were losers, and if you had Mr. Donald K. Walters for a teacher you know exactly what I mean.

Anonymous said...

I just ran across this blog and goodness, Mrs. Ballinger, she was a ROCK in my life during my Reading Readiness year. I loved her to death and was sorry to hear she passed.

Anonymous said...

My memories of Indian Village was not as good as yours. My name is Diane and i was born in Fort Wayne Indiana. My family stayed there till I was 10 years old. My dad got transferred from Tennessee by GE. our family left in 1971. My opion Mrs Ballinger and Miss
Crouse they where not good teachers at all. Frist of all I had Mrs Ballinger as a kindergarden teacher. I was only 4 years old when I was in her class. Which was to young to be in school. Mrs Ballinger let me go on a balance beam unattended. I broke my arm and I can remember this to this day. She put my coat on and told me to go home and stop crying. My mother noticed my arm turning black and blue. She took me to the hospital and they told her it was broken. She would always tell vistors in the class do not pay me no attention because I was a cry baby. I was only 4 years old. My mom called the school and Mrs Ballinger told her my arm was fine when I left. That was not true my mother never forgot that. Then she failed me and it went from bad to worst. Miss Crouse she was the meaniest teacher ever! I never got anyting right in eyes. She would yell and scream at me all the time. If that didn't work she would spank me with a ruler. I can remember one time I picked her some daiseys from outside and I thought she was going to crazy. She said it bothered her hay fever. Nothing I did was good enough for Miss Crouse. I failed again and then I was shipped off to SunnyMead. Okay these are good teachers I do not think so. Then my dad got transfreed to Tennssee from GE I was never so glad to leave Indiana. My memories of those 2 ladies are not good memories. When I moved to Tennessee I got left behide 2 years because of the school system in Indiana. As far a a teacher of a year award they do not deserve it in my eyes. I would never move back to Fort Wayne for any reason. The area I was from looks like it's been through hell and back.