Last updated on October 4, 2022
Cecelia Joyce Price, Ph.D., who goes by Joyce, believes the most important part of being a teacher is the influence you have on students — many times in unknown and unintended ways. As a faculty member in the School of Education, it’s one of the many lessons she tries to impart to her students.
One encounter with a student early in her career reminds her of the lasting impact teachers have on the lives of those they teach.
When Price taught ninth grade in the ’90s, she had a student who was pregnant. At that time, pregnant students would stay home and have their assignments sent to them.
Each time Price sent the student an assignment, she included an encouraging note or a kind letter. She doesn’t remember exactly what she wrote, and she didn’t see the student again. Price left the classroom for an assistant principal position at another school, but her mother, Media Joyce Smith, who was also a teacher, replaced her.
Over a decade later, Smith had a student she described as smart as a whip, but a firecracker. During a parent-teacher conference, the student’s mother pulled out a piece of paper and said:
“You’re the mother of a teacher I once had, and she wrote me this letter. This is the letter I read to my daughter over and over again. I tell her, ‘Your teacher is the mother of my teacher…she means the best for you because her daughter meant the best for me.’”
Price had no idea when she wrote that letter that her student would not only keep it but would one day read it to encourage her daughter.
It Runs in the Family
Price knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. She comes from a family of educators, and at the age of 12, she was teaching Sunday school lessons in the adult classes at Good Street Baptist Church in South Dallas.
The church encouraged all the youth to teach classes, and Price said it was “a wonderful opportunity to become comfortable in front of an audience.”
“It just felt good to be someone who led a classroom,” she remembered.
Her first job was teaching ninth grade English at Duncanville High School, barely a month after she graduated from Dallas Baptist University. It was the beginning of a 34-year career in education.
After earning her master’s degree in education administration, she interviewed for an elementary school assistant principal position.
“I was 26 at the time and I thought, ‘Interviewing will be a nice experience, but I’ll never get that job,’” Price said.
But she did land the job — and discovered how different it was from the high school classroom.
“It was a culture shock. I went from teaching 14-year-olds to opening milk cartons for kids at lunch,” she said, laughing.
Price would go on to hold assistant principal roles at several Duncanville ISD schools, eventually serving as the principal of Hardin Intermediate School for 13 years. As principal, she began to grow curious about curriculum and how we learn it — more specifically, how teachers learn how to be teachers.
“I was interested in growing teachers,” she said.
In 2018, a year after earning her doctorate in curriculum and instruction at the University of North Texas, she became an adjunct professor at the El Centro Campus.
The opportunity to become full-time faculty came in Fall 2020 when she was offered a position with Dallas College’s newly formed School of Education.
Today, Price is one of six residency instructors for Dallas College’s new bachelor’s degree in education where she is able to combine her love for teaching with her passion for developing the next generation of educators. Dallas College is the first community college in Texas to offer a four-year bachelor’s program, and the first group of students in the program will graduate next May.
The program is unique in that the residents are placed as paid employees at area schools and districts. Price’s residents teach at Uplift Education charter schools, and she visits each of the 11 campuses on a rotating basis as she helps coach them in real time.
What she loves most about teaching at Dallas College is the opportunity to help guide and mentor future teachers, particularly teachers of color and those from low-income environments — students for whom attending and completing college is not a given. Many of those students need extra encouragement to let them know they can succeed.
And Price is there to provide that extra boost of confidence and support — just as she did for her ninth-grade student who kept her letter all those years.
“People leave with these impressions of you and the atmosphere you created in the classroom, and that impacts their life indefinitely. That’s the part that motivates me the most.”