By Faran Fagen
His favorite parts of the job: Working with students through all four years of high school, getting to know them, and watching them grow into young men and women — as debaters.
“Most of the time, when students come in, they’re trying to find who they are and their place in everything going on,” Jon Price said. “They find their confidence, their voice, their platform, and are ready to take on new challenges.”
Jon Price, 38, of Margateis in his 11th year of teaching all five levels of Debate at JP Taravella High School.
He believes that speech and debate classes are some of the most essential courses students can access in high school.
“Students are not simply learning a curriculum; they are learning and developing skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives no matter what their occupation is.”
He added that communication is important everywhere, and being effective at communication can be the difference between earning a scholarship for college or getting that promotion at work. Listening and responding thoughtfully and logically are skills that we look for in leaders, and in debate, we are preparing future leaders.
Recently, Price won his second prestigious Diamond Award from the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA). He won his first Diamond in 2018.
“Many people enter and leave coaching without ever reaching that milestone, and so getting my second one isn’t something that I take for granted,” Price said. “I’m excited and humbled that I have been able to achieve this award.”
As an educator at Taravella, he’s taught all five levels of debate, English courses, and, most recently, the Cambridge course Global Perspectives.
Price has been involved in debate for the past 24 years. He started his journey freshman year at South Broward High School in Hollywood. His debate coach was Howard Chapnick, who now teaches English at Taravella with Price.
During this time, Chapnick offered Price a place where he belonged and taught him how to hone his oratory talents.
“I learned skills as a student in that class that I have used every day since and will continue to use every day moving forward,” Price said. “That class helped me to win a scholarship which helped me to afford college.”
The highlight of Price’s career was winning his first Diamond in 2018. The National Tournament was held at Taravella that year. His daughter had just been born in February, so he received the Diamond in front of his wife, daughter, and other family members.
In his 11 years as a Trojan, Price has built a respective and competitive program in the district. The administration of Taravella ensures that the debate team can capitalize on opportunities like travel tournaments. However, community and support are crucial.
“The students are always striving to get better and don’t shy away from hard work because they want to be the best,” Price said. “Most start out shy and can be unwilling to get up and speak, but by the time they graduate, they have truly become young adults getting ready to positively contribute to society in college and the workforce.”
Excitement precedes every debate tournament, but there are equal parts of stress and anxiety.
“For me, the excitement is about watching the students put into action the plans and arguments that they have been working on in class to see whether those efforts work in real-time against opponents,” Price said.
His future goals are for his students to continue to improve at their chosen events and use the platform they have to inspire positive change while also acquiring the skills that will help them succeed in academia and in life.
A native Floridian, Price is a product of Broward County Public Schools. He attended Broadview Elementary School, New River Middle, and South Broward High School for their Marine Science Magnet Programs. He later graduated from the University of Florida,
In June of 2018, Price sat down with a former administrator, and they went through the time requirement, and the commitment debate takes. As a coach, Price has to attend every event, while students pick and choose when they go.
That year, there were 30 local tournaments. They added up the hours he attended, not including the time traveling to and from the tournaments, and the total came out to 479 hours. Unlike high school athletics, debate doesn’t have a season and competes the entire school year from September to May, plus the National Tournament in June.
When he manages to carve out some time, he enjoys being with his wife and daughter, watching movies, playing video games, and cooking.
- Faran Fagen, who teaches high school journalism, graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Journalism degree and from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Education. He's worked at The Palm Beach Post, SunSentinel, and MLB.com. He lives in Coral Springs with his wife and two children. Oh, and his three dogs -- who all think that they're his favorite.