5 Questions with Chris Spraggins: Making science a verb

April 20, 2014 

What do you know now as a veteran high school science teacher you wish you had known when you started more than three decades ago?

That teaching is not just about books, lectures and kids sitting in desks lined up in straight rows. Teaching is about caring. Teachers must show they care about the students they teach. Often a caring teacher is all a student has in his or her life. On the first day of each semester I have the students complete a personal survey and on the back they have to write a page about themselves. They can write anything they want. I do this because it gives me a window in what they feel is important in their lives. It allows me to know each student on a personal level. I have found if a teacher cares about their students on a personal level, they will care about you, and I guarantee they will try harder in class.

How do you motivate students to get interested in science?

By making science a verb rather than a noun. Student learning is an active and dynamic process. I try to engage my students in labs and other activities that are fun, creative and different. One of the principles I teach my students is to think differently. Use your imagination and do not be afraid of following your own ideas. Throughout history the greatest achievements, developments and innovations have come from people thinking "outside the box." In my classroom I have many posters and creative student projects hanging on the walls. One poster is a picture of Albert Einstein and his quote: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Another is an old Apple computer poster with a picture of Jim Henson and Kermit the frog. At the top it says "Think Different." That is what I try to get my classroom kids to do.

You have been a coach throughout your career. What is the best part about coaching high school kids?

For me it is being outdoors, watching kids grow and develop over four years of high school and learning the skill of teamwork. After teaching for 38 years, I have had the opportunity to attend a lot of class reunions. As a coach at three different schools, baseball and fastpitch softball, I have found that former students still regard me a "Coach Spraggins" rather than Mr. or Dr. Spraggins. Why? Students perceive coaches as people who care, and they look up to us as role models. Many kids spend more time with coaches after school and on weekends then they spend at home. The team becomes a second family.

You call your home Spragzoo. Why?

There are 23 reasons, most adopted. We have seven dogs … LeeRoy, Franklin, Eleanor, and Ralphy (inside) and Champ, Chase, and Cane (outside). We have four cats inside, Sheldon, Chiz, Venus and Smoie. We have six birds, parrots, inside a bird room … Callie, Pedro, Artie, Sweetpea, Lollipop and Houdini. Four parrots outside in an aviary … Kirk, Spock, Bones and Ohura. We have two classroom pets at CHS, Fluffy, a rabbit and Kool-Aid a parakeet who both come home on weekends.

What is the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

This is a tough question as there are many great activities and events on both sides of the river. I don't know if it is a secret, but Cindy and I enjoy walking downtown Broadway with a couple of dogs on Market Saturdays and attending the summer concert series on Broadway.


Name: Chris Spraggins

Age: 60

Job: Teacher/Coach, Columbus High School

Hometown: Covington, Va.

Current home: Phenix City

Family: Wife, Cindy (married 35 years); son Matt, stone mason; daughters Caroline, account representative for The Game, and Emily, Finance Department at Government Center.

Education: Alleghany County High School, 1971; A.S. Science and A.S. Teacher Education, Lancaster Community College, 1973 Clifton Forge, Va.; B.S. Biology, 1975, B.S. Science Education, 1976, M.Ed. Science Education 1979, Ed.S. Science Education 1981, and Ed.D. Science Education 1984, Auburn University; EDL certification, Troy University, 2001.

Favorite book: "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch

Favorite movie: "Field of Dreams"

Favorite restaurant: Phenix City "Applebees"

Favorite quote: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." -- Henry Adams

Best concert attended: The Rolling Stones 1990, Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.

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