The Science of Teaching: Terrance Price wins Teacher of the Year

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Terrance Price never thought he would be teaching middle school in the town he grew up in. Like most college students Price had no idea what he wanted his future to look like. 

He had lived in Lanett his entire life, before leaving to attend Alabama State University. He was a product of the city’s schools, having gone to Central and South Elementary, Lanett Junior High, and graduating from Lanett High. Price played football at Lanett High School, and had always loved sports growing up. 

“I kind of wanted to get into coaching, and back then you couldn’t coach without being a teacher. So I decided to go into education,” Price said.

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He had come from a family of educators and had an idea of what he was getting into. After getting his degree in elementary education he returned to Lanett.

“I did not want to come home,” Price laughed. “But this is where God brought me and I have really enjoyed it.” 

Price had graduated in the winter, which meant struggling to find a teaching job in the middle of the school year. The elementary education major found himself teaching seventh-grade science at his alma mater, Lanett Jr. High. He was hired as a long-term substitute when a sick teacher was unable to return for the second semester. 

While he found a full-time fourth-grade teaching position at Central Elementary, Price missed middle school. He enjoyed the 7 years at Central, even getting a Master’s degree from Troy University in Elementary education. But, couldn’t shake his time at the junior high.

“So it kind of just stuck with me and when the opportunity became available to get that certification in middle school science I went ahead and did that,” Price said referring to his certificate in middle school sciences. 

He moved on to LB Sykes before it closed. He finally settled at the school he began his career at, Lanett Junior High School.

Although Price never lost his love for sports. He added Jr. High basketball coach, and Lanett High School JV football, and Varsity track and field coach to his resume. 

Price views coaching as an extension of his duties in the classroom. He believes a coach’s role goes beyond calling plays and practices. 

“My coaching philosophy is if I can’t teach it, then I’m not going to implement it, because at the end of the day when things go wrong in the game, you have to be able to fix it,” he said. 

“I did that for the better part of my 25 years here, but this year, my load is a lot lighter…I have more time to myself and that’s enjoyable, but the time that I was spending coaching, I’m spending that doing academic things,” Price said. 

Price dropped his role as a football and basketball coach, but remains the high school’s track and field coach. The newfound free time has been reinvested in the subject of teaching he happened into 25 years earlier. He found himself running late to practice because he was researching projects to do with his students, and daydreaming about potential programs while the athletes were doing drills.

“I just kind of felt compelled to help those students in a different way, kind of move in the right role academically, and then they have a team’s program that the state of Alabama is offering. So that was a big incentive,” Price said.

Teams is an Alabama Department of Education program that gives financial incentives to STEM teachers in “hard-to-staff” schools, or schools that experience severe teaching shortages in STEM subjects.

Through the Teams program, Lanett Jr High has after-school math and science tutoring and activities, led by Price and Tamalita Dunn Autry, a former STEM teacher in Chambers County and a councilwoman for the city of Lanett. Together, they do hands-on science and math activities for their students.

“The kids really get a double dose of lessons…they’re either getting it in a hands-on activity, or they’re getting it in a more traditional lesson in the classroom. So it kind of piggybacks off of each other, I think it was great for us,” Price said.

Despite his almost three decades of experience going above and beyond, Price was surprised at his being nominated for Teacher of the Year. He said that when someone does a job for as long as has, the awards aren’t the driver.

“It is just going to work and trying to get the best out of a kid,” Price said matter-of-factly. “I think it’s important to always be willing to be helpful to others. I’m hoping they saw that ‘Okay, this is a guy who cares, and he’s going to give you 100% of whatever he has that day’…I would hope that people see those things and say, well, here’s a guy who’s deserving.”

He admits that teaching is not an easy profession. Dealing with adults is one thing, but having kids in the middle school stage means navigating a lot of personalities. 

“Middle school is different. It’s different. Those children are kind of all over the place. But I really enjoy Middle School…no day is ever the same with education, period, but definitely not with middle school kids…So you have to laugh a lot,” Price said. 

He adds that because of the constant change in his job, he has become comfortable in the uncomfortable. Price finds taking each day or problem as they come, is the best way to avoid becoming complacent as a teacher.

The best part of the day is, believe it or not, the kids. Even in the midst of their tomfoolery, as I like to tell them,” Price laughed and shook his head, obviously thinking back on specific instances. “They really are the highlight of the day.”

With coaching as his first love, and teaching as his longest, the throughline of Price’s career is the kids. His decisions revolve around how to make his students better. 

“As much as we can play, at the end of the day, if you do something for 20 plus years, you have to have some type of enjoyment for it, or else you would have found something else to do by now… I really don’t know anything else that I would enjoy doing more,” said Price.