A Mount Maunganui teacher will head back to university next year as the winner of a well sought-after and world-renowned education reward. Education reporter Caroline Fleming sat down with Michelle Ballard to learn a bit more about her journey ahead.

A top Mount Maunganui teacher will ditch the classroom next year to live the life of a university student in the United States, but not for the sorority houses or frat parties. Instead, as the winner of a top international award.

Mount Maunganui College science teacher and deputy principal Michelle Ballard has been selected as one of two teachers in New Zealand for the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching programme.

The award will see Ballard head to the United States for five months to work and study out of a university. She will work alongside other outstanding educators from around the world to develop teaching styles and grow as an educator.


A large number of applicants from all over the country had applied for the award but only two winners were chosen.

Ballard said the achievement was like "professional development on steroids".

She found out a number of months ago while she was on holiday in Sri Lanka and had to keep her excitement bottled up for eight weeks until it was publically announced.

Teacher heading to the USA for a scholarship in teaching.

At this stage, Ballard was not sure what university she would be sent too. She will find out in September. She hoped for somewhere like Stanford University, which was the home of her passion for design thinking courses.

Ballard said she was excited to get back into the university lifestyle but said she would try to stay away from the two-minute noodle student diet.

Ballard was previously selected for the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Conference in Kuala Lumpur in 2009. Photo / File
Ballard was previously selected for the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Conference in Kuala Lumpur in 2009. Photo / File

The trip would be valuable in that she could share and pick up learning methods and styles from top teachers around the world to bring back to little old Tauranga, Ballard said.

Mount Maunganui College principal Alastair Sinton said the achievement was a "big deal" to the school and that Ballard was well-deserving of the award.

Sinton said Ballard was a future-focused teacher, who many others in the practice looked up too.

She was known to take other teachers "under her wing" when it came to crafting innovative styles of teaching.

The Ministry of Education will fund full relief costs to the grantee's school through the Teach NZ Prestigious Awards Programme.

Ballard heads to the United States in January.