SIOUX CITY | Perhaps no Siouxland teacher was more excited for the 2017-18 school year to begin than Michelle Ball, science instructor at Siouxland Christian High School in Sioux City.
Ball, after all, spent the last three years teaching in a portable classroom, a site remembered for its mice, its leaky sinks and its inability to deliver an environment suitable -- or safe -- for experiments.
"We had no working fume-hood, so we did experiments outside," said Ball, mentioning how combining sugar and sulfuric acid to show a geothermic reaction has to coincide with a venting system of some sort.
Ball has that now in the new school, a hub of construction activity and excitement on Gordon Drive, immediately east of Menards, site of a new school funded by a $9 million capital campaign.
Ball literally had a hand -- make that two hands -- involved in constructing the new science lab. She and husband Adam Ball built the tables, the teacher's desk and put in the cabinets that top each of eight work stations at the back of the room. Each work station has a sink, running water and gas.
"I remember having those things at our tables when I was in high school," said Ball, a graduate of Seward High School in Seward, Nebraska. "And you'd have students playing with those things during a lecture. I didn't want that, so I designed the room to have the work stations in the back."
The Ball family spent the entire summer putting this room together in addition to designing and constructing a playground area along the south side of the school, an area that's shaded during morning hours. The Balls (Adam teaches at East Middle School and coaches football at Siouxland Christian) took a break from their normal summer roofing work schedule to complete these projects at Siouxland Christian.
"Adam and I are paying off the kids' tuition this year by doing this work," said Michelle.
The Balls' children, Ethan, Kacy and Bailey, are in seventh grade, fifth grade and third grade, respectively.
Michelle Ball, who stayed home with her children for 10 years, is now in her fourth year of teaching at Siouxland Christian, a non-denominational Christian school for grades preschool through high school. This represents her first teaching position.
"This is 300 times better than being in a portable," she said with a wide smile. "We had to do something because the school was growing. I remember having 25 in my classroom last year. I had students sitting in chairs in the aisles."
Her new room, which can seat 30, will likely have normal class sizes of around 15, with room to grow. Besides the space, Ball has all the electronic scales, microscopes and balances she needs to allow each work station to operate independently.
"We won't be slowing down this year to take time to share equipment," she said.
Each classroom in the new school also has an interactive Promethean board that can show apps students have on their phones. For example, as Ball shows a human skeleton on the board, students may pull up the same site on their phones and following along, moving organs and bones while labeling each.
For an educator with a challenging work load (five different science classes alone: physics, chemistry, anatomy, physical science and health), this is one teacher who cannot wait to dive in to a new school year.
"Students are so excited to get going," she said just days before the school year commenced. "And I have parents of former students who have stopped by to see our new room and they've just smiled and given me a big hug!"