Bouncing ball finds home in teaching

Being held back by district helps Babb decide her future

Elijah Luna, Staff Writer

Journalism teacher Judy Babb felt like a bouncing ball as she grew up. 

Her father’s job with Metropolitan Life meant frequent moves. It also ultimately changed her life.

From birth to age 13, Babb had already lived in seven states and 13 homes. 

She feels like she has no roots – no family home to visit.

 It wasn’t until that last move from Louisville, Ky., to Dallas that it made much difference.

Her childhood was soon flipped upside down. It would mean another new school – one her parents didn’t realize was more than rough.

When Babb had arrived at Sarah Zumwalt Junior High in Oak Cliff, it was discovered that her records from the Kentucky school had not arrived.

While her parents told the school she had been in all the advanced classes, without the records, DISD placed her in the lowest level of all classes.

She repeated all of her core classes for two years except Algebra and Texas History.

Being in low level classes could have posed as an issue had it not been for two teachers who realized the district’s error. 

The two set Babb up as a teacher of sorts within their classes.

“I realized how much I liked teaching,” Babb said. “I decided in junior high that I would be a teacher.” 

Babb kept secrets from her parents during the time she was in Zumwalt.

“It was a rough school – really rugged,” Babb said. “I never told them about things that went on there until I was grown. They were horrified.”

One day Babb ended up in detention – probably for chewing gum or laughing in class – where she encountered a girl socially distanced from her who sounded like she was in extreme pain. Turns out, she was but it was self-inflicted. 

She was carving her boyfriend’s initials in her leg and then filling the wound with ink from a pen cartridge. 

“I was horrified,” Babb said. “I never had seen such a thing.” 

Babb was also threatened after being appointed by the PE teacher to,check role and whether people had “dressed out” in gym clothes.

“I was changing clothes when a group of girls came to the door of the changing stall and threatened me,” Babb said. “They said they would beat me up if I marked them absent or not dressed out.

“I told them I guess they would have to beat me up,” Babb said. “They repeated the threat and I repeated my answer.” 

The thugs never approached her again. 

So Zumwalt gave her a profession she loves and a lack of fear that sometimes is needed in teaching.

While she knew she wanted to be a teacher, she didn’t pin down what she’d be teaching until she was in high school. She decided on journalism as a sophomore but she was too busy to take a journalism class.

Instead, Babb chose to be a theater kid.

Trying out for musicals and getting lead roles was fun but not her calling. 

“I thought I’d never have a chance to do plays and musicals when I was grown,” Babb said. “So I chose to play in high school.” 

Her freshman year at UNT, she took her first journalism class. Her major never changed and she ended up with a BA and later a MA in journalism.

“When God closes one door, he opens another,” Babb said. “I think He showed me where I needed to be.”

After many years of teaching what she loves, Babb is retiring in May. She has mixed feelings about leaving her students. 

“It’s time for me to go but I know I’ll miss the kids,” Babb said. “So many of my former students have become my friends. I have to thank Facebook for reconnecting us.”

She hopes that will be true of West students as well. Some she already has as FB friends.

Michelle Castillo, a third-year student, likes how Babb treats students.

“She is the kindest teacher,” Castillo said. “She makes an impact on me by always treating me like a daughter. She has helped me with stories and never gets irritated at me.”

While it may be a somber goodbye, the students she has impacted will remember what she’s done and will thank her for spreading her passion to each and every soul that has entered her classroom.