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New MHS assistant principal has high hopes for students
Benny Baliles (right), Martinsville High School’s new assistant principal, learns about ongoing renovations at the school from Travis Clemons, director of finance and development for the city schools. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)
Monday, August 13, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
As Martinsville High School (MHS) students start the new school year, they’ll likely see a new assistant principal among them.
Benny Baliles, 27, recently was hired as assistant principal of the school. In the position, he wants to help all students realize they can achieve their goals and ambitions, regardless of circumstances in their lives.
“I will not judge anybody” or their ability to succeed, Baliles said, based on factors such as mistakes they previously have made or the socioeconomic status of their families. He said he believes that people are restrained only by limits they place on themselves.
Baliles has five years of experience as a health and physical education teacher and coach at Patrick County High School, of which he is a graduate. He expects students to be well-behaved and do their best at learning.
It has been only about a decade since he was in high school, so Baliles still empathizes with students. He has been through many of the challenges that today’s teenagers face.
He admitted that, like most people, he made some mistakes as he grew up. He also indicated that he had trouble feeling motivated in school. He said he wants to help students to avoid those issues.
He has found that students, when they need help in dealing with matters in their lives, often feel more at ease talking to younger school employees than older ones. He said he wants students to feel comfortable approaching him for help or advice.
Pam Heath, superintendent of the city schools, said Baliles “has an easy-going manner and he’s very approachable.”
“He’ll relate well with students,” Heath said, yet “he’ll have a firm hand on what they need” to be successful.
“I look forward to building relationships” with Martinsville students and their parents, said Baliles, who is a cousin of former Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles.
Baliles has a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Liberty University and a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science, with minors in psychology and athletic coaching, from Bluefield College. He wants to earn a doctorate by the time he turns 30.
He considers David Clement, another health and physical education teacher at Patrick County High who taught him and with whom he worked after he joined the staff there, to be his mentor.
In high school, Baliles said, if Clement had not kept him motivated, “I probably would not have graduated” or at least not gone to college.
Clement persuaded him to pursue a career in health and physical education. Then, as a student teacher in college, Baliles enjoyed working with young people and realized he could make a difference in their lives, he said.
His goal is to become a principal and, maybe eventually, a superintendent or another type of school system central office administrator. However, he said he would not be disappointed to keep working in schools for his entire career because he enjoys being around students.
Baliles married his wife, Kirsten, earlier this summer. While on his honeymoon, Patrick County High School’s principal, Moriah Dollarhite, called him to say she heard MHS was looking for a new assistant principal.
When he interviewed for the job, he was impressed with the “overall attitude” of Heath and MHS Principal Aji Dixon toward educating students, he said. He realized they all shared similar beliefs.
“They genuinely love kids,” he said. It shows in what they say and do, he added.
“I feel like I was meant for this (job),” Baliles said. In the short time he has been at MHS, he enjoys going to work each day, he added.
Educating students is hard work, and being an assistant principal will mean “a lot more stress” than he had when he was just teaching and coaching, he said. But it’s a job that someone has to love in order to do it.
“If you don’t love it, you’ll burn out” quickly, he added.
Being new to MHS, Baliles has not yet formed any strategies for improving how students are taught or their abilities to learn.
Generally, though, he said he wants to keep them interested in learning and help build a sense of community within the school. When students feel they are part of things and they are valued, they are more likely to take care of each other as well as the school, he noted.
Baliles also wants to help students learn by using modern technology so they can develop skills they will need for jobs in the future.
“Without 21st century skills ... nobody’s going to want you” in the modern job market, he said.
Heath said all the city schools emphasize learning how to use technology, but the biggest push is at MHS because “the high school is the place where it (everything students learn) all comes together before they graduate.”