Trillium Academy teacher named tops in Michigan

“This isn’t just my award,” Kristina Price told a gymnasium full of students Monday afternoon at Trillium Academy in Taylor. ”This award is because I have the most amazing students in the world. Thank all of you and my lovely staff, too.”

Price was surprised – and tricked a little – with being named the Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

While she knew she was in the final five, she had no idea she had won until members of the organization and parents of her students walked into the school’s crowded gymnasium. Prior to that, she thought she was going to an assembly about a charity run coming up in October.

“I thought it was weird to be promoting that already,” Price said. “When we walked into the gym, I saw the balloons and everything and didn’t think anything was up.”

When she recognized the MAPSA representatives and then saw her family walk in with a banner announcing her as the teacher of the year, it all sank in.

Price has been at Trillium Academy for her entire 10-year career. She earned her degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

During the surprise, there were about 800 students in the gymnasium who all started cheering the moment they realized what was going on.

Price was nominated for the award by a parent, which she said was quite an honor.

All 10,000 charter school teachers are eligible for the award each year, according to MAPSA Vice President of Communications Buddy Moorehouse.

“This is a very big deal,” he said, “It’s the highest honor a charter school educator can receive.”

Price won the award for her innovative teaching style, which includes singing, dancing and other ways to keep her third grade students involved in the learning process.

“We’re always up and moving,” she said. “The kids seem to remember it better if you can tie it into song.”

Trillium Supt. Angela Gilbert said third grade is a transition year for elementary students.

“Our students are coming to the end of learning skills,” she said. “They are transitioning into fourth grade where it’s applying those skills to what they’re learning. Kristina has always worked really hard with her kids to make sure they have those skills.”

Tobi Walker, who is both a parent and on the Board of Directors for the school, said Price basically lives at the school.

“I don’t think she goes home,” Walker said.

Between teaching, leading the junior show choir and her fundraising efforts, Walker might be right.

When Price was a child, she said, she wanted to be a rock star or a teacher.

“I direct show choir, and I’m a teacher,” Price said. “I get to do both.”

Walker said Price caters each lesson to the child and manages to push the children who need it, while helping those who need the extra assistance, too.

Her students and former students all speak highly of her, as well.

“It feels like the first day every single day,” Andi Harnum, now a fourth grade student, said of her former teacher. “You never want to leave. Once you go to a different class, you are very sad.”

Principal R.J. Suemnick said Price is one of his best teachers.

“She makes sure that she hits all of their learning styles,” he said. “Every year, the kids look forward to having her as their teacher.”