Former gang member honored with Missouri’s 2021 Teacher of the Year
ByFunAsia 22 Dec 2020 10:48 AM 121
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Darrion Cockrell never expected to live with a stable family, a college degree and Missouri’s 2021 "Teacher of the Year" award became a possibility for him when he joined a gang at 10 years old.

Cockrell, 34, teaches Physical Education at Crestwood Elementary School in St. Louis. According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, he was selected as "Teacher of the Year" by a committee of his peers and became the first male teacher since 2015 to be awarded the title.


He talked to the media and talked about his difficult journey to receiving the state’s highest honor for teaching.

Cockrell was born to a drug-addicted mother and a drug-dealing father, who was murdered when he was only 4 years old. The neighborhood gang eventually adopted him. He added, "I was born into it."

Before his teenage, he destroyed the neighborhood, broke windows, and robbed people. At one point, he was given a knife to kill a former gang rival. He couldn’t do that. He explained, "When you have to defend your life, it’s either they’re going to die or I’m going to die."

His late grandmother struggled hard to look after him and his siblings, and he entered the foster care system. He gave the entire credit to his middle school counselor, who took a special interest in him and became his legal guardian, as his saving grace.

"This lady became literally like my mom. She’s still like a mother to me," he said.

After that, Cockrell’s high school football coach adopted him. He attended and graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a degree in education.

"I wanted to be someone who helped people, that made people happy," he said.

Cockrell said he’s grateful for receiving Missouri’s highest honor for teachers.


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