- Seawell Elementary
FOCUSED on Automotive
Chapel Hill High School’s Automotive Instructor, Robert Ballard, is quietly taking the automotive and CTE (Career and Technical Education) world by storm, and we want you to learn more about this amazing teacher and role model.
Not only was Ballard named 2023 CHCCS Teacher of the Year in May, but he continues to collect awards and recognitions. He prioritizes relationship-building with his students, and he’s also a big team player, always crediting his fellow CTE teachers and district leaders with every accolade and milestone he achieves. A great believer in reaching out to ALL students, Ballard has expanded the presence of young women in the automotive pathway from 3 to 22!
A few years ago, in looking to increase and diversify enrollment in the automotive courses, Ballard began to focus on recruiting more young women.
He has hosted Lunch and Learns over the past two years, bringing in former female students, as well as women in the automotive industry. Ballard worked with school counselors to identify students who are strong candidates for automotive courses and who wanted to learn more about the industry. He also worked with school counselors to cluster the young women in the same automotive classes. Now more of the advanced students can lead some of the Lunch and Learns themselves.
“We keep pulling in more and more students who may be having some troubles, may not have found their fit in school,” Ballard said. “But I tell people, in automotive we can always find a fit for you. I tell them, cars do not discriminate. They don’t care what gender and race they are.”
Ballard also steps in whenever he can to encourage and work with his students who might be struggling in other courses. He is constantly working to create more opportunities for his students and he initiated a very successful apprenticeship program so students get college classes paid for while working for an automotive shop.
Two years ago, with money from industry sponsors, Ballard was able to create a racing program at the Wake County Speedway. Students serve as pit crews, and the program has added a second car to increase the number of students who can participate. One of his next goals is to create and maintain an all-female racing team.
In the last few years, Ballard has received numerous honors. Aside from being named the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools 2023 Teacher of the Year, he was recognized by the NC Chamber of Commerce as the NC Workforce Readiness Scholar for his business engagement and building local partnerships. He was also recognized by the national automotive industry as the “B’laster Instructor of the Year” for his creativity and exemplary program.
Ballard also works part time at Durham Technical Community College to complement his work at CHHS and ensure that his students continue their education, earning certificates and degrees.
Even with all of that, he isn’t stopping there. In order to better prepare students for various automotive careers, Ballard facilitates an automotive advisory council to get input from local employers and higher education educators. He is also working with DPI on the new middle school CTE curriculum. With a full slate of classes (no planning period!) and Friday nights at the speedway, this is a teacher who truly gives his all!
Ballard credits his own former teachers and mentors for inspiring him to “give back” and support his students as broadly as possible. He also simply loves working as an automotive instructor and engineer! “I picked automotive because cars don’t talk back,” he said with a laugh.