Angela Ballard Joins WTCI-PBS AS Chief Learning Officer

Friday, November 01, 2013

Despite growing use of tablets, 82 percent of all children ages 2-8 watch PBS television, according to a Common Sense Media research study released Thursday.

That’s good news for parents, since children who watched PBS Kids program “Super Why!” scored 46 percent higher on standardized tests than those who didn’t, said officials.

Children who played the “Martha Speaks” PBS Kids app for two weeks showed a 31 percent gain in vocabulary tested.

PBS serves 99 percent of TV households, often offering the only educational programming for those children. The network offers six literacy series and seven that focus on science and math.

Chattanooga’s PBS station, WTCI, serves the Tennessee Valley through on-air programming, outreach in schools and in the community, and professional development for teachers in Hamilton County’s public schools.  

This August, Angela Ballard joined WTCI as chief learning officer and brought 18 years of communications and education experience to the station. She has already spearheaded several initiatives at WTCI that expand the impact the community’s PBS station will have on local education, including a new professional development series for teachers in partnership with Hamilton County Department of Education. 

WTCI’s teacher learning series gives HCDE educators the chance to share their best practices for instruction incorporating technology. Sixteen teachers can participate in person in each training session, and WTCI will video the sessions and upload them to wtciTV.org so that unlimited numbers of teachers in Hamilton County and beyond can train asynchronously online. Two of these professional learning sessions are scheduled each month for the next 15 months.

Ms. Ballard is also working with the Tennessee Department of Education to create customized learning objects that help explain to teachers, parents and students the new K-12 PARCC assessment tests that are being implemented in 18 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. PBS will distribute these learning objects nationally via PBSLearningMedia.org.

Paul Grove, president and CEO of WTCI, said he celebrates Ms. Ballard’s role at the PBS station. “Angela has hit the ground running, and her drive and commitment have energized our ability to impact the students, families and educators in the community we serve,” he said.

Teachers and administrators from 33 different schools and districts attended an educator open house at WTCI last month to see some of these new educational resources firsthand. The event highlighted WTCI’s media lab and its Ready To Learn reading classroom for children in preschool through second grade, as well as the more than 30,000 videos and interactive lessons free to teachers and families through PBSLearningMedia.org. 

“Before I joined WTCI, I didn’t realize how much amazing classroom content was available through PBS,” Ms. Ballard said. “Now, I tell everyone I meet about it, whether they teach preschool students, college students, or anyone in between.”

Ms. Ballard’s 16-year-old stepson is “self-schooled,” and she said PBS’s environmental science content from “NOVA” has been of particular interest to him. “It’s challenging to find quality content for older homeschool students, and PBSLearningMedia.org is a very valuable resource for parents and kids who are looking for interesting, challenging material and more advanced lesson plans.”

Her younger stepson has also taken advantage of her new professional role and spent his fall break participating in WTCI’s code camp. Designed specifically for 13- to 18-year-olds, the camp taught students HTML, PHP, app development and more. Professional programmers from the Tennessee Code Academy led the sessions, and students hosted a “demo day” at the end of the week to show off their new coding skills for parents, grandparents and school administrators. 

The fall code camp was such a success that Ms. Ballard said she has already scheduled a second session for spring break, April 14-18.

A self-proclaimed advocate of lifelong learning, Ms. Ballard is currently pursuing a doctorate in Education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she has also taught as an adjunct instructor since 2003. 

“I’m very lucky to have found such a great opportunity to combine my professional experience with my love for learning and do it in a way that benefits teachers and students,” she said. “We are so fortunate to have WTCI and PBS in our community, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”


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