ive years ago, Revathi Balakrishnan (’18 M.Ed.) was so weary of the spotlight, she didn’t even have a Facebook account. “I just like to do my job,” says Balakrishnan, “and if somebody finds my work, that’s great.”
The thing is, when your work is as good as hers, it’s hard for it to stay unnoticed, social media accounts or no. A former systems analyst, Balakrishnan transitioned to teaching in 2008, when she took on the role of a talented and gifted specialist for Patsy Sommer Elementary School in Round Rock ISD. As an analyst, she worked remotely and found herself cut off from daily human interaction. A desire to be around people, in a role that served a higher purpose, led her to teaching and a commitment to building positive relationships with her pupils. Balakrishnan’s style is no-nonsense-meets-high-engagement — she may have no desire to decorate bulletin boards, but her classroom is filled with the kind of unparalleled enthusiasm and rise-to-the-occasion challenges that stick with students long term.
And that’s part of the reason that she did, ultimately, have to open a Facebook account, and a Twitter account too. After all, that’s the type of thing that comes with the ambassadorship required of a Texas Teacher of the Year — an honor Balakrishnan won in 2016 after eight years of superlative work.
That designation resulted in a visit to the Texas governor’s mansion, as well as a ceremony at the White House where she was greeted by former President Barack Obama and snapped photos with then-Vice President and now-President Joe Biden and First Lady and fellow educator Jill Biden.
“It’s hard not to think, when all of these things are happening, ‘Why me?’” Balakrishnan says.
It’s an obvious question to ask, but also an easy one to answer. Her dedication not just to teaching but also to learning has made Balakrishnan a shining example of the impact educators can make in the lives of students. She spent 11 years as a GT teacher — the kind of specialized role many teachers vie for — before transitioning to fifth-grade general education, where she works with students with a range of challenges, including dyslexia. “I thought, ‘I need to move on,’” says Balakrishnan, who also won the 2018 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence.
“You learn incrementally every year, but I wanted that ‘big learning’ that comes with this wonderful challenge of reaching out to students who are struggling but are still eager to learn. That’s where I choose to spend my energy.”