Just what the doctor ordered: Teacher transitions from pharmacy lab to classroom, prepares students

Either you know exactly what you want to be when you grow up, or you have no clue. You’re lucky to find one occupation you like, but two?

After being a practicing pharmacist for thirty-three years, Hammond Oliver Pharmacy Tech teacher Anne Ballard transitioned into the teaching field.

“Being a pharmacist is very stressful,” Ballard said. “I tell my kids that it’s kind of like being a pro football player. I wanted to quit while I was ahead, and because there are so many new drugs coming out, there is the fear of me missing one. But also, I know the importance of having a good pharmacy tech next to a pharmacist. That’s why I’m here, so that I can train some really good pharmacy techs for the pharmacists out there.”

Ballard’s real life experiences in the pharmacy not only allow her to be a more helpful and effective teacher, but also allowed her to present her students with actual examples and specific situations that she has experienced.

“She knows a lot of background about the drugs instead of teaching you what’s normally in the book,” pharmacy tech senior Haley Manry said. “She tells a lot of stories about things that she’s seen. Stories about side effects and just different life skills that would help show a pharmacy tech student what you’re really going to deal with. It’s more of actual life lessons that you could apply to your job.”

According to students, Ballard’s method of using real life examples is something that not all teachers do, and it makes a difference.

“[Her stories] help you a lot,” senior Dominique Kelley said. “Most teachers might not know about pharmacology as much, but Ballard can easily sit there and tell you what’s going on and how it affects you. She’s able to tell us a lot about the drugs and she knows everything about them.”

Ballard has taught at Hammond Oliver for a year and a half now after teaching pharmacology at the University of Texas for about ten years. Ballard’s desire to share her enthusiasm of learning with her students motivates her to teach and shines through as she teaches.

“She’s really crazy,” Manry said. “She’s very upbeat, and she really tries to help you one-on-one instead of just as a class. She’s very happy. I enjoy her class; it’s fun.”

Although Ballard brings fun into her classroom, she notices that there are differences between teaching college students and high school students.

“There’s a difference because in college you pay, so I believe college students are more dedicated,” Ballard said. “Sometimes I find that that’s an issue because I feel like I have a lot to share. Sometimes students in high school are here because they have to be, so they don’t have that dedication. It’s discouraging.”

Even though high school students seem to show a little less enthusiasm and appreciation, there are times when hope shines through for Ballard.

“What I really like is when the students get really enthusiastic, like ‘Wow! I’m really learning something that I can use,’” Ballard said. “I really like that. And for those that maybe weren’t enthusiastic about it at first, all the sudden, ‘Oh wow! This is good stuff!’”

While Ballard loves to teach, she does miss working at the pharmacy.

“I miss a lot about practicing pharmacy,” Ballard said. “I mean, it’s my life. My son says, ‘Oh my gosh, mom, I can tell you just love it.’ And I do. What I miss is practicing retail pharmacy where you get to interact with patients. That’s what I miss. I miss my patients.”

According to Ballard and through her class, pharmacology is not an easy task. A lot is on the line because people’s lives depend on it.

“You have to be dedicated,” Ballard said. “You have to be committed, love the information that you have to learn, and have a good work ethic. You have to really buckle down and learn that information because there’s a lot to do with it. You know you have people’s lives at stake when you’re working at a pharmacy, and you have to be very accurate. You can’t be wishy washy about anything; it’s black and white in pharmacy, and not everyone really likes that.”