He was rescued by teachers during a difficult childhood. He is now Missouri’s Teacher of the Year.

Being named Teacher of the Year is an honor in itself. For Darian Cockrell, it is a remarkable achievement given his turbulent early life.

Now, as Missouri’s Teacher of the Year, he wants his story to inspire others.

Cockrell stated that his mother was out of his life due to drug addiction and that his father died of selling drugs when Cockrell was 4. A St. Louis native, Cockrell was foster care by the state at age 6 , And he moved here and there. In various houses for about a year. His grandmother eventually took him and his six other siblings into custody.

“When my grandmother was trying to raise us, she was on the streets with our siblings and my friends,” NBC News quoted the 34-year-old cockerel. “Even though I was going to school, I couldn’t really concentrate. Worrying about homework is difficult when I worry about putting food on our table. We had to live paycheck-to-paycheck, and when you’re living that way, your brain isn’t thinking about the future – you’re thinking about the present and maybe the next day. “

Cockrell met with a counselor at Parkway Central Middle School who started a basketball team to help him stay out of risk and encouraged him to maintain his grades. Over time, as she picked him up for the games and learned of his living situation, he realized that in order for Cockrell to succeed and fully utilize his potential, he needed to live in a safe environment. was. However, the state decided that Cockrell and his older brother, Tario, were being housed at the Academy, a former Missouri school for juvenile delinquents, hours away.

Instead, his counselor successfully lobbied the court to become Cockrell’s patron. Although his older brother was sent away, Cockrell was able to live in a boy’s house near the school, which allowed him to keep his positive support system.

Cockrell’s interest in sports grew in the seventh grade, and so did his new relationship with football coach Dennis Kaiser, who inspired him to practice that year. As time passed, he developed a bond with his coach’s family, and Kaiser decided to promote him. Cockrell lived with him throughout high school and considered him his new family.

Darian Cockrell with Dennis Kaiser, his middle school football coach and Kaiser’s wife. The couple eventually became his foster parents.Courtesy Darian Cockrell

Carry it forward

With all the support he has received from teachers in his life, Cockrell said he wants to pursue it as a teacher.

Although he will graduate from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he developed a love for teaching fitness, was not a skill to learn that came naturally to him. He struggled with a lifetime of academic struggles due to dyslexia and other learning disabilities. But, even given those obstacles, he says it did not prevent him from becoming an elementary school physical education teacher.

His students at Crestwood Elementary in St. Louis called him “Mr.” DC, “and it’s here where he teaches them about the importance of nutrition and health, whether it is bringing his passion for fitness or popping up to other classes to remind his students to stay active For, especially during the epidemic.

In an effort to foster connections, Cockrell has created activities where parents and teachers can work together after school.

“I knew that by doing this, teachers would be able to have better relationships with these parents.” He said, “I wanted to create something like a football coach made for me. We are all working towards a common goal together. There is no person bigger than the team or bigger than each other. We are all doing some bigger things than all of us and this is the success of these children. This is the success of this community. “

His school’s principal, Charity Schluter, described Cockrell as “genuine, passionate, devoted, humble, incredibly positive”, which would “excel in developing trustworthy, respectful and caring relationships with all students” is.”

“He has an incomparable desire to convince his students that they can face adversity and that it can be fun to learn!” Schluter said.

Cockrell is grateful that the award has given him attention but says that as a teacher, he is not going above and beyond his call to duty – only to do what his children’s success does. Necessary. In sharing his story, he hopes it can positively influence others.

“Your past, although it is important, does not determine your future,” he said. “You can make mistakes and things can happen in your life, but you can push through them.”

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