Jerrie Price has come full circle since she started kindergarten at Northside Elementary School 48 years ago this fall.
Price attended Siloam Springs Schools from kindergarten through high school and has spent her 25-year career in the district, first working as a high school science teacher and coach, then as an assistant principal. In May, she was named principal of Northside Elementary School, which serves prekindergarten and kindergarten students.
"I really believe that time at Northside was really formative for me as far as the trajectory I was set on to become a teacher," Price said.
When Price attended Northside Elementary School, it served students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Price loved school because it was a place where she felt loved, cared for and safe. The teachers during her early years at the school set her on a path toward a career in education, which was solidified in middle and high school, she said.
"I think that was all set here at this place and I feel like the teachers that I had along the way in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, really impacted me and set a trajectory that was life-changing," Price said. "So to be at the high school for 25 years, and then move to where it all started for me, feels like this full-circle life event.
"To come back to the place where the trajectory for my entire career was set is a really neat feeling for me; to invest in the kids that are the age that I was when I started here and to continue the culture of kids being taken care of and cared for and feeling successful and setting trajectories for kids to love school is so important to me."
After graduating from Siloam Springs High School in 1990, Price went to the University of Central Arkansas for several years before finishing her education at John Brown University. She started teaching science at the high school in 1995 and worked as a volleyball, softball and soccer coach. When her children were born, Price stopped coaching and went back to graduate school, becoming an assistant principal at the high school 11 years ago.
Outside of school, Price enjoys spending time with her husband Danny of 20 years, and their two children, who are both students at Siloam Springs High School. In her spare time, Price is a beekeeper and builds traditional bows with her husband, which she uses for hunting in the fall. She also enjoys reading a good book, she said.
Back to the beginning
Price made the choice to come back to Northside Elementary School because she hopes to help children develop the same love of learning she found at the school. She believes that kindergarten is one of the most important years of a child's education because if they learn to love school, it will help them succeed throughout their education, which will open opportunities after graduation.
School is brand new and exiting for students at Northside Elementary School and many come in with the thought that school is going to be a fun and amazing experience, she said.
"I want everything we do to be about that experience, that love of school and the joy that children have at coming to school," Price said. " They have already built that culture here... but to be a part of sustaining that and growing that and developing that even more, is just so exciting for me."
Coming to Northside Elementary is a big change for Price, who is accustomed to working with teenagers.
"You don't just go from 25 years at the high school level, with adolescent students and working with kids every single day, to a kindergarten campus and feel completely comfortable, but the one thing I know is that I absolutely love these kids this age," Price said.
When working on her graduate degree, she did an internship at the school and fell in love with working with kindergarten students, she said.
Price is adjusting to the major differences between kindergarten and high school. While working with high school students, behavior issues are often a form of communication that launches a conversation about what is really going on, Price said. At the kindergarten level, students won't always have the words to explain their emotions or frustrations, she said.
There are also differences in the inherit nature of high school teachers and kindergarten teachers, she said. Northside Elementary School has a family culture, which Price plans to continue and foster, she said. She sees her job as principal to remove barriers so that teachers can do their job, and to have supportive community both inside the school and outside, with parents and adopters.
"My goal in being a principal is to create an environment where two things happen -- where teachers are supported in a way that allows them to support our kids to the fullest extent that is needed for the kids to be successful and then to support students directly when needed," Price said.
Planning for a new year during a pandemic
Price's plans for the school year have changed completely from the time she first got the job, largely because of the covid-19 pandemic.
"It has changed from all these ideas of things we want to do, and will do someday, to surviving the first semester of school in a way that is productive and in a way that is we are growing and getting better at our craft."
Price plans to develop a strong communication plan to support teachers through covid-19 and to walk through the challenges with parents.
"We are building this airplane as we are flying it, and that is hard, so my goal is to just give them the support they need, the information they need, the time they need to plan," Price said. "The harsh reality is we don't know how it is going to play out so we need to plan for every option."
While there are some serious concerns and plenty to worry about, Price said she feels confident the challenges will make teachers and administrators better at their craft and better at supporting students than ever before. The only good thing about the pandemic is that teachers and administrators are going to have to pull together and work through challenges as a team more than ever before, she said.
"I truly believe that when we come out on the other side, not only are we going to be closer as a family as Siloam Springs School District, both administration and teachers, but I think we are going to be closer with our community, we are going to be closer with our staff, our staff is going to be closer with each other, our staff is going to appreciate kids more than they ever have being in their classrooms," she said.