South Fort Polk teacher named Vernon Parish teacher of year
FORT POLK, La. - Sharyn Price high-fives her students as they leave to board their buses. Price, a third-grade teacher at South Polk Elementary School, earned the honor of Vernon Parish Teacher of the Year. When notified she won, Price said "I was just speechless and I'm never speechless." Next, she faces a regional board interview.

FORT POLK, La. - A teacher plays a significant role in a child's life, instructing their students in subjects that move them into the next grade level. Some passionate teachers go beyond simple instruction and not only get students involved to learn the basic material, but also teach children life lessons. To them, it is more than a job, especially for South Polk Elementary teacher Sharyn Price, the 2011 Vernon Parish Teacher of the Year.

Upon entering her third grade classroom, it looks like a typical example of those at South Polk Elementary: Shelves built high to separate each class, students' desks organized to leave space for activities. The classroom offers nothing spectacular, but it is more than just a room. Price gets her students involved in every lesson. She does her best to have the students move around, work together and, most important, have fun.

Price's teaching journey began 19 years ago after graduating from Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va. She married an Army military policeman who was stationed at Fort Polk. At her first chance, she applied and earned a position teaching at Hicks Elementary School. As with any Army lifestyle, she experienced deployments and moves, but always came back to the parish. She left Hicks Elementary and moved to West Leesville Elementary, followed by Pickering Elementary and finally landed at South Polk Elementary where she has been for the last three years.

She always knew she needed and wanted to be a teacher. "When I was young, I had learning problems and difficulties in school, and no one had the time to help me. I went to private school where I had a teacher, Kathy Gallagher, who basically taught me how to read. I knew there were other kids like me and I wanted to help them. I wanted to be that Kathy Gallagher," said Price.

She got her wish four years ago when she was teaching at Pickering Elementary School. A fifth-grade boy had trouble learning in the classroom. "He had not achieved the level he wanted to achieve. He was angry and would just shut down and cause problems. It took months, but he finally realized he was a smart boy and could answer questions. He went from causing problems in the back of the room to being the first one to raise his hand for a question," said Price. She thinks about him often and wonders where he is and what he's doing. It is her most memorable moment as a teacher, she said.

When Price was notified that she was the Vernon Parish Teacher of the Year, she was shocked. "I was just speechless and I'm never speechless," said Price. She went before the board after submitting her packet of teaching information and saw some familiar faces, including a retired librarian.

"She approached me at the end and wanted to tell me that my packet touched her. I don't know what she meant by that, but something set me apart from the other teachers," said Price.

South Polk Elementary principal, Charlie Balthrop, knows what sets Price apart. "She won because she cares about the students, which is evident in her class, as well as working with her peers. Many on our staff see her as the go-to person for new teachers. She has done a good job fitting in since her arrival," said Balthrop.

Price brings her life experiences to her teaching style. When teaching, she opts for the Student Engagement Learning Approach, which means she acts as a facilitator for class discussions, allowing the students to teach themselves and each other. "One day a student asked me what Komodo dragons eat. I answered that I didn't know what they ate, but somebody knew about Komodo dragons. It shows that all students have something to offer," said Price.

Price describes herself as a tough teacher with high expectations. Some students comment on how strict she is, but Price doesn't mind. "I want them to be known as the group of kids that can follow the rules and do what they're expected to do, not try to make the rules fit them," said Price.

She may be a tough teacher, but Price softens when her students need it. She understands what it is like to be the child that has trouble learning. As a mother, she understands a child's struggle to learn and participate in the class. As a former military spouse, she understands when the children are sad because they miss their mother or father, as well as the challenges of being a military student.

With 22 out of her 25 students military children, teaching can be challenging, said Price. "These parents aren't working at the office around the corner; they're at PT or they're in formation or they have to report somewhere. The parents can't just drop everything. There may be other siblings or other commitments they have to focus on," said Price.

Price tries to be there in any way she can. Every day when the students board their buses to go home, Price is there to say goodbye and remind them of a test or offer them a treat. Every student gets a high-five and some even give her hugs. "It comes down to just being there for them when they need it," said Price.

Price said she never forgets why she loves teaching. "I've taught first grade before and when their eyes light up because they can sound out a word or read that first sentence, that's the reward. That's when you know you've done your job," she said.

Price hopes that when the students leave her class, they not only know the material to move to the next grade, but also understand to always try their best.

The slogan for her third graders at South Polk Elementary is, "learn for life," and Price hopes her students learn study skills, good self-esteem and a strong work ethic.

"My students think I'm pretty fun. That's what one of my guys said. He said I tell good jokes. We laugh and I have fun. I make mistakes, but they understand that. They like to know I don't say, 'You're wrong, I'm right.' They see me as being like them, just older. A lot older," said Price.

While eight hours with third graders can be stressful to many, Price enjoys it. "Sometimes it's a lot, but it's worth it. Am I frustrated sometimes' I am. But I wake up every morning and I tell myself it's going to be a great day. It doesn't matter what the day ends like, but when I get up in the morning we start over and it's going to be a great day," said Price.

The next step for Price is to submit an application to the regional board, followed by an interview. If she makes it past that point, she will then move up to the state Teacher of the Year competition.

Balthrop wrote a letter of recommendation on her behalf. "We look forward to her representation. She does very well in her position here and we're all very proud of her," said Balthrop.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16