Former Missouri gang member overcomes the odds of his past to become Teacher of the Year
A former gang member has overcome all the odds of his troubled past to achieve something he thought would never be possible – winning Missouri’s 2021 Teacher of the Year award.
But for 34-year-old, Darrion Cockrell, the road to success was littered with hard times and struggle. He was raised by both his grandmother and a series of foster parents after his father, a drug dealer, was murdered and his mother battled drug addiction, GMA reported.
In fact, Cockrell credits some of his past teachers for saving his life when he was a young gang member on the streets of Missouri.
In middle school, Cockrell was faced with being moved from foster care to a boarding school for troubled youth – that’s when his teachers stepped in.
“My counselor and principal and a few teachers actually went to court and fought for me to stay” he said. “My middle school teacher picked me up every day [at the foster center] and drove me to school. She pretty much was my mom for six months,” he added.
Armed with the support and guidance from his teachers, Cockrell went on to finish school and even earn a college degree.
Now married with a 3-year-old son, Cockrell eventually landed his first full-time teaching job at Crestwood Elementary, where he is now celebrating his sixth year of teaching P.E – and of course Teacher of the Year.
Teacher of the Year
Cockrell became the first male to win the top education award since 2015 and was particularly happy to win the recognition for teaching P.E., the class he credits with keeping him in school as a child.
“PE is just as important as social studies and science and math,” he said. “As long as you understand those building blocks of fitness and health and taking care of yourself, then you can do anything you want in the world.”
“Just having a job is something I’m so appreciative of, because growing up, people didn’t have jobs,” he said. “That’s why when people see me, I’m always happy and laughing and smiling because I get a paycheck every two weeks and not only do I get to get a paycheck, but I get to get it by doing something that I actually, truly love.”