Missouri’s Teacher of the Year Darrion Cockrell and his Remarkable Journey

Crestwood Elementary has the important distinction of counting the state’s Teacher of the Year among its ranks, P.E. teacher Darrion Cockrell. In addition to this remarkable achievement, Cockrell related his incredible story of growing up in the foster system, contending with a drug-addicted parent, a murdered father, and gang affiliation through his young life.

Cockrell is notably the first P.E. teacher in 15 years to receive the prestigious Teacher of the Year award, a long-running recognition in the state of Missouri. This is also the first time a Crestwood Elementary educator has been granted the award, and it’s further inspiring to learn of Mr. Cockrell’s humble and challenging beginnings.

The award winner had many words of gratitude for the educators in his life, the people who helped steer him down a safer and more successful path. “I had a lot of struggles and a lot of hurdles and if not for those educators, I would not be here,” he stated in his acceptance speech at the Teacher of the Year Recognition Ceremony two months ago. P.E. teachers were particularly vital to his childhood, offering a respite from his tumultuous foster experience, and it was his football coach who would adopt him.

In addition to his teachers, a worker at Cockrell’s boys’ home named Ken helped care for and watch over him, emphasizing how it was important to be both tough and compassionate. These are values that Cockrell passes on to his own students at Crestwood, who refer to him as “Mr. D.C.”

Among Cockrell’s other contributions to the Crestwood community includes the Dads’ Club Open Gym, which invites fathers in the community to play nighttime basketball. Mr. D.C. has also been actively involved in distance learning, applying new techniques and games to keep his stay-at-home students engaged during the pandemic.

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