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Fire & EMT Teacher from Muncie Area Career Center Receives Ball Brothers Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award

Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Chris Horner honored by Ball Brothers Foundation

Ambulance lights are flashing, radio traffic is on the scanner, and victims with minor and critical injuries are lying on the floor–it’s just another Monday morning for students in Chris Horner’s EMT and Fire/Rescue classes at the Muncie Area Career Center.   

Horner’s journey into teaching was not exactly traditional. As a fire-science teacher at the Muncie Area Career Center (MACC), Horner brings a wealth of real-world experience from his decade-long tenure at the Muncie Children’s Museum and the Yorktown Fire Department. His innovative approach to education and deep commitment to his students comes from his time giving presentations to pre-k and elementary children and his continued duty in the field as an EMT and firefighter. 

“I learned that a teacher’s passion should be shared with and seen by students,” said Horner. “This is essential in bringing material to life and making it relevant to young people.” 

Horner’s commitment to his students and preparing them for life beyond the classroom is one of many reasons Ball Brothers Foundation selected Horner as the recipient for the 2024 Excellence in Teaching Award. The annual award recognizes a Delaware County teacher who inspires students and colleagues alike and includes grant funding for the winner’s district ($5000), school ($5000), classroom ($5000), and professional development ($2500).
 
The basis of a successful working and learning dynamic in the classroom stems from showing students respect and asking the same from them. Horner finds this especially important as his students work in teams to develop skills, build trust, and solve real-world problems.

Horner’s teaching methods prioritize hands-on learning and encourage curiosity from students. His students are not just learning from textbooks; they are actively participating in applying what they learn to real-world applications. For example, students practice triaging patients involved in mass casualty incidents using the Career Center’s ambulance bays to assess varying degrees of injury and collaborate to run incident command structures. Simulations like these—along with ride-alongs, reviewing body camera footage, and live fire drills—are tools and technology Horner uses to help students think critically and adapt to stressful situations they will face on the job.  

In partnership with local agencies including the Muncie Fire Department, Delaware County EMS, and Yorktown Fire Department, Horner aims to provide opportunities for students to experience first-hand what they’ve learned in class. Guest speakers, field trips to cadaver labs, annual visits from a medical helicopter, and the use of professional equipment are all included in Horner’s curriculum to ensure that students are well-prepared for careers in emergency services.

“Curiosity is a gateway to learning, and I strive to make my classroom a ‘safe space’ for asking questions,” remarked Horner. “In my classes, I put students in scenarios—real and imagined—that build their skills to be successful and increase their confidence in responding to problems.” 

Horner plans to use part of the award funding to invite master teachers and external specialists to share new, student-centered teaching methods of presenting content and strategies for better preparing students for high stakes exams they must pass for entry into EMT and fire careers. 

“What truly impressed us about Chris Horner is his exceptional ability to transform theoretical learning into real-world applications,” said Jud Fisher, president and CEO of Ball Brothers Foundation. “The Excellence in Teaching Award honors educators who demonstrate critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration in their classrooms. Chris’ students will be on the front lines of fighting fires, saving lives, and keeping our communities safe. There’s no question that Chris’ instruction is preparing them to be leaders in high stakes work.” 

In addition to Horner, Ball Brothers Foundation also recognized Lindsay Myrick, a high school math teacher at Yorktown High School, and Tiffany Turner, a math and science teacher at Muncie Community School’s Northside Middle School, as finalists for the award.

High school math classes like those taught by Yorktown’s Lindsay Myrick can be intimidating—AP calculus, statistics, and algebra. Myrick’s teaching philosophy centers on making these subjects friendly and applicable to everyday life. She emphasizes celebrating small victories to build students' confidence in these tough concepts and encourages exploration before formalizing learning to help her students think critically and become better problem solvers. 
  
“As these young students grow into adults, they will have problems, both big and small, that they need to solve on a daily basis,” commented Myrick. “While I believe the type of thinking I expect of them will serve them in future math courses, I also believe they will be able to apply this approach to many problems they have to tackle in their lives.” 

Similarly, MCS Northside Middle School’s Tiffany Turner's lessons are focused on collaboration and problem-solving. She transforms her classroom into a vibrant learning community where students work together to tackle problems and explore concepts creatively. Project-based learning is at the heart of her teaching, giving students the opportunity to apply standards to engaging projects like working in teams to design habitats for animals prior to a trip to the Indianapolis Zoo. 

“Collaboration is important in our world, so I work to make it important in my classroom,” stated Turner. “I want my students to take chances. Mistakes are expected and encouraged.”  

As finalists, Turner and Myrick each received a grant of $1,000 to be used in their classrooms and $500 for professional development. 
  
The judging panel for this year’s selection of the Excellence in Teaching Award winner and finalists included several community members and experienced educators:  

  • Dale Basham, veteran educator and school administrator 
  • Dr. Patricia Clark, retired professor of early childhood education at Ball State University 
  • Kate Love-Jacobson, coordinator with the City of Fort Wayne and Allen County and consultant with High Performance Government Network 
  • Wilisha Scaife, a life-long Muncie resident who is well-known for her expertise in family engagement and community leadership
  • Dr. Neil Schmottlach, veteran Ball State University teacher educator and distinguished professor who later served as a Ball Brothers Foundation program officer 

This year’s award finalists and winner were honored at a reception held on May 21 at Minnetrista which was attended by principals, superintendents, and teachers from across the county. “We are especially excited about this year’s winner due to this being the first time the Excellence in Teaching Award has been given to a teacher working in career and technical education,” shared Jud Fisher during the reception. “We’re strong believers in the work that the Muncie Area Career Center does, and we’re pleased to shine a light on the MACC’s outstanding programs that are preparing future EMTs, firefighters, and others.”  
  
To learn more about Ball Brothers Foundation’s Excellence in Teaching Award, including eligibility requirements and previous years’ winners, visit ballfdn.org/excellence-in-teaching-award

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