Erin Balfour Reflects on 19 Years of Teaching

Balfour’s bulletin board is filled with all the random stuff students have given to her. “I think people begin to feel more at home when they see their stuff in the room,” Balfour said.
Balfour’s bulletin board is filled with all the random stuff students have given to her. “I think people begin to feel more at home when they see their stuff in the room,” Balfour said.

Young Erin Balfour lines up her stuffed animals freshly picked from her bed, she calls over her little brother to sit next to them on the floor as she neatly places magazines in front of each and every one of them. She turns to the blackboard centered on her bedroom wall and recounts the lessons she had learned earlier that day in her first-grade class.

Balfour had a long love for teaching, she’s been teaching at McNeil high school for 18 years, with a total of 19 years of teaching.

“I had a really wonderful first-grade teacher, she was so phenomenal and I remember thinking I wanted to be like her,” Balfour said. “So I always knew I wanted to teach, It was a matter of what.”

For a long time, Balfour believed she would go on to teach science, not until college did it become clear that teaching English was the career path she wanted to follow.

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“What I like about English is that I can change it all the time, I don’t get bored,” Balfour said. “If I get bored I just pick a new book, or I teach a new grade level and it’s new again. English has a lot of freedom.”

Teaching at McNeil was an amazing accident for Balfour, who decided to interview for McNeil and Deerpark middle school following her husband’s move to Austin. She was specifically drawn to working in Round Rock ISD upon hearing how teacher-friendly the district was.

“They do a lot to ensure we have training and they seem to really try to take care of their teachers to the best of their ability, McNeil’s specifically,” Balfour said.

With trouble deciding between teaching middle or high school, Balfour ultimately decided that high school was a better fit for her.

“It’s a lot more opportunity to interact with more students,” Balfour said. “I think at McNeil, what I was drawn to was just how much it felt like a community and a family. That was something that stood out to me a lot about everyone I met, and how I felt when I walked onto the campus for the first time.”

Having worked at the same school for 18 years, adapting to changes in teaching has become inevitable, and facing these situations has become a common occurrence for Balfour.

“When I started teaching, technology didn’t really exist a whole lot yet, or [at least] in the same ways, ” Balfour said. “We had to learn to adapt to technology and that was a challenge, you had to relearn how to teach with phones and laptops and the internet and all those things.”

Every year, Balfour faces a new set of challenges, such as learning to teach through a computer during the pandemic.

“To be honest I think that’s what makes this job so interesting, is that there’s almost always a challenge you have to overcome, and I think I just like solving problems,” Balfour said. “I enjoy working through those challenges.”

Balfour thinks not every teacher is a good fit for every kid, however, she tries to work through this obstacle with positive reinforcement and tries her best to make a connection with every student.

“Whether a kid likes me or doesn’t like me, or likes my subject or doesn’t like my subject, I still want to work really hard to give them the best experience I can,” Balfour said. “I think one of the things that’s important for teachers to realize is that our kids are people. I think if we can treat them with respect and get to know them, a lot of times that relationship can then be leveraged into an academic setting.”

Students express their love for how Balfour says everyone starts from somewhere and doesn’t judge you no matter where you start from.

“I think what separates Mrs. Balfour from other teachers is because she really genuinely cares about making connections with her students,” junior Kasey Trinh said. “She actually cares about their future and wants them to succeed.”

As an educator, Balfour can feel frustrated and even overwhelmed, but this has never really affected her goals in teaching.

“There’s a lot of challenges facing the public education system right now,” Balfour said “I remember how much I love what I do, how much I love the content of what I teach and how much I love the students I get to work with every year, so I’ve never contemplated leaving. I usually just want to stay so I continue to hopefully make things better, and continue to advocate for the things that public schools need.”

Through the struggles of teaching, Balfour also has a long list of achievements, such as being Department Chair of the English department and winning ‘Teacher of the Year’ more than once. However, there’s one achievement she feels is her biggest accomplishment.

“I think it’s having both my kids here,” Balfour said. “The whole time I’ve been at McNeil, I’ve had both my children, they have grown up in these hallways and I think my biggest accomplishment is that we’re now all here together.”

Both Layla and William Balfour admit that having their mother as a teacher at the school they attend can feel weird at times but it also has its sets of advantages.

“I think it’s a good thing,” freshman Layla Balfour said. “Because if I ever need something or like I’m feeling stressed out I can just go into her classroom and she can help me with it.

Balfour is excited for the anticipated years to come at McNeil. She feels motivated to continue making a difference in her students’ lives.

“What keeps me motivated is the idea that I always wanted my job to feel like I made a difference,” Balfour said. “That I was helping people, and I think teaching allows me to do that. It allows me to help people, not only learn and problem solve, but I think it also helps, the motivation, sometimes what I do matters to people.

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Hannah Bland, Reporter
I am Hannah Bland, I am a Junior, and this is my first year on the McNeil Trailblazer staff. I spend the majority of my time outside of school working, watching movies, getting coffee, running in cross country and hanging out with friends.
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  • E

    Erin BalfourOct 16, 2023 at 4:29 pm

    Nice job, Hannah! You are a great writer!

    Reply
  • O

    olivia westOct 16, 2023 at 12:29 pm

    love this girl!

    Reply
  • C

    Cooper SeaverOct 13, 2023 at 3:57 pm

    Great story bro

    Reply