Douglas Price ‘13MED was initially upset when students and staff at Voyager Academy were called down to the gymnasium in December to take a yearbook photo. The school had recently been closed for several days because of an unexpected snow storm, and he didn’t want to lose more instructional time.
It was only when 2018 Teacher of the Year Freebird McKinney walked in that Price realized the photo was a ruse and the gathering was really for him.
“I was floored, but it was a huge honor and surprise,” Price said of being named the 2019 North Carolina Charter School Teacher of the Year during the surprise ceremony.
Although he is now an award-winning teacher, Price originally intended to major in speech pathology as an undergraduate. It was a professor in that speech pathology class who suggested he consider a career as a teacher after she watched him interacting with one of her children at the campus daycare, where he worked part-time.
“I knew by that point that my drive was to work with children in some capacity, but I wasn’t quite sure exactly what that capacity was going to be. This particular professor kind of sought me out and guided me,” he said.
Price joined Voyager Academy in Durham as a fourth grade teacher, but was later asked by his principal to move to sixth grade to teach Core Connections, a unique course that dives deeper into math, English, social studies and science standards through project-based learning.
It was during this transition that Price was also working towards his Master of Education in Elementary Education from the NC State College of Education.
“I knew going into this class that I was going to build it as something that was really going to push students to take ownership of their learning process. As I was learning about student growth and student mindset in the College of Education, this was helping me to formulate what things were going to look like inside the classroom,” he said. “I do attribute a lot of what I learned from the College of Education to the formation of this particular class and giving the foundation for what this class became.”
During his years in the classroom, Price has served in the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at NC State and as a fellow for the state and national chapters of the Hope Street Group. He has developed a strong focus on educational policy issues and regularly invites legislators and policy makers into his classroom.
Above all, though, he says putting his students first is the most important part of his job.
“I see so many students who have such a need for somebody who’s going to buy into them as an individual, who’s going to be willing to establish and build a repore with them and recognize their humanity first, before recognizing them as a student. That’s really the heart of my job,” he said.