She said Price patiently takes the time to work with each student to create the best possible learning environment for each individual, even when some of those students have little to no communication skills or severe physical disabilities

Briganti said Price deserves the Teacher of the Year award and is pleased with the recognition it will provide for not only the school, but the special needs community as well.

"It just provides validation for what we do," she said.

A lifelong passion

Price said his interest in students with disabilities began as a child, interacting with his younger brother.

"He had some learning disabilities," Price said. "Growing up with my brother, learning from my parents how to handle him and his stubborn ways helped me with initially coming here, understanding that these are somebody's kids too.

"We take for granted that, when we have normal kids, that education is important to them," Price said. "But in our building ... those years are crucial for them."

The students at Maiden Choice receive an education far beyond that of reading, writing and arithmetic. They learn a variety of basic tasks, ranging from feeding and dressing themselves to proper behavior within the community.

To prepare them for life outside the classroom, the students routinely take trips into the community to eat lunch at McDonald's or go bowling.

"It's individualized," Price said. 'We determine the adapted equipment necessary for them to move forward.

"We have to break it down into the smallest of steps," Price said. "And if it takes us six months to get through the first part of it, then it takes us six months to get through the first part of it.

He said he enjoys working with students with disabilities because of their pure desire to learn and because he can make an impact both inside and outside the classroom.

"We look at where they are and where we would like for them to be, which is as independent as possible," he said. "And whether we have them for 18 years or 18 days, we're going to make the adjustment into the adult world as smoothly as possible.

"The important part is, we're teaching them skills for life," he said.

"I think these kids are truly interested in learning," he said. "They have disabilities that hinder them in some way.

"They give us 100 percent every day," he said.

Price said he hopes his award will bring some attention to the special needs community and help break down social stigmas associated with the disabled.

"My hope is that they [school system administrators and elected officials] will come here and meet some of the kids that we work with," Price said. "We're not the [bad] behavior school or the school of misfits."