Don Ball - Cawthra Park Secondary School

Year: 2017 – Province: Ontario

Transcript—Don Ball Video

[Don Ball speaks to camera, with the Parliament buildings as a backdrop behind him]

[Photos of Don and his students are displayed on screen throughout his interview]

[Upbeat music plays softly in the background]

I'm Don Ball. I'm from Mississauga, Ontario, and I teach at Cawthra Park Secondary School.

[Text on screen: Don Ball, Ontario]

I found that students in the classes when I was in high school were following me around and asking me for advice and wanting me to explain what had been explained to them already. So I was naturally teaching. One of the things that people speak about when they talk about my classroom is that I get my students to think deeply. And they say, you know, how do you do that. And my answer, which is sort of facetious, but I say I ask them to think deeply. And when you ask students to think deeply, they don't disappoint you.

The presentation that I'm showing is about contemporary art in contemporary classrooms and ways that students can interact with art to reveal more about themselves, and a way that they can use that same artwork to find out more about the world.

A piece of advice I would pass on to educators is to listen. I would also say not to listen to everything that comes from direction around you. Pay respect to it, but do what you know is working for the students that are in your care. I would like all my students to feel that they are respected. I would like them to know that, whether they match their parents or not, whether their gender identity or sexuality identity, whether their artistic skills or economic status, they are respected. And I would like them to feel that in every school and every classroom that they're in. Hopefully they'll be able to take that with them into their lives.

Student: Teacher Ball takes learning beyond curriculum material. In his classroom he teaches things that can be so applicable in life, and he never stops teaching and you never stop learning from him.

[Canada wordmark]

[Music ends]

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Don Ball

Cawthra Park Secondary School
1305 Cawthra Road
Mississauga, Ontario  L5G 4L1

Principal: Don Ablett
School telephone: 905-274-1271
School website:

Subjects and grades taught: Grades 9 to 12, Visual Arts

From Intergenerational Art Events with the local seniors' centre, to successful fundraisers for World AIDS Day, Donald Ball teaches by example. Thinking globally and acting locally, this arts teacher encourages his students to use art to challenge conventions and to think critically about the social issues around them.

Teaching approach

Ball's assignments pull together different subject areas and grade levels to challenge students to form new perspectives – like exploring storytelling, projections and values through art, writing and dance, or developing a teaching garden that brings together science, technology and food production.

Outstanding achievements

  • Organized a biannual cross-curricular travel program for science and visual arts students to Latin American countries and Inuit communities in Canada, to complete community service projects while exploring the art, culture and ecology of the areas. Ball orchestrated a collaborative artwork designed by the students exploring the idea of "place" that was displayed at the local art gallery.
  • Was instrumental in revising the province's art curriculum resources to be more local, Canadian and inclusive.
  • Was the first Canadian to be selected as a member of the ART21 Educators program – an intensive year-long professional development learning community designed to support K-12 educators interested in bringing contemporary art and themes into the classroom.
  • Facilitated international thinking about art making, race and civil rights between his students and their peers in the USA through videoconferencing and Padlet to share works and ideas in learner-sourced websites.

Rave reviews

"Today I am a full time artist and costumer with my own studio, teaching practice and the co-artistic director of a performance company. I managed to find my way not because I was told how to, but because Don listened, trusted and encouraged me to explore on my own."

Past student

"Don generates situations where students are able to confront new ways of making and seeing while realizing meaningful connections to personal, social and ethical issues."

Former colleague and director of the ART21 Educators program