How A Former Crip Became a Teacher and Was Awarded Missouri’s Teacher Of The Year

“Six-deuce-87 Kitchen Crip gangster, yep. Your 2021 Teacher of the Year used to be in a gang,” Darrion Cockrell said in his acceptance speech.

The state of Missouri’s highest prize for educators has been bestowed upon a physical education teacher for his amazing tale and dedication to his students.

Darrion Cockrell was named Missouri Teacher of the Year for 2021 by a jury of his peers and other education partners from around the state, according to a statement from the Department of Primary and Secondary Education.

The narrative of Cockrell is one of inspiration and hope.

He spoke on the necessity of having educators who care about children in his acceptance speech, as well as how a second opportunity from his adoptive parents altered his life.

The instructor, who goes by the moniker “DC,” is a former gang member whose youth was blighted by tragedy and bad events. He spoke openly about his past and the steps he took to get to where he is now.

“I started from the bottom,” Cockrell said in his speech. “Six-deuce-87 Kitchen Crip gangster, yep. Your 2021 Teacher of the Year used to be in a gang.”

Cockrell claimed that he believed he would die like many of his peers and that he was born to fail because he grew up in deplorable circumstances in North St. Louis.

“I was born to a drug-addicted mother who had two of her six kids by the age of 16, my father was murdered when I was four, and I began my journey in and out of the foster care system not long after my sixth birthday,” Cockrell recalled.

Despite the fact that Cockrell’s early years were challenging, he claimed he owes his life to the teachers and counselors who helped him through them.

He expressed his gratitude to a man named Ken in particular. He added that Ken was his mentor while he spent a year in a boys’ home during middle school.

“He taught me it’s OK to be tough, but at the same time, it’s OK to be compassionate,” Cockrell said. “He was like a father figure to me.”

Cockrell’s football coach adopted him while he was in seventh grade, changing the course of his life and his pessimistic attitude on life.

“When I changed the way I looked at things, the things around me started to change,” he said. “I had a lot of struggles and a lot of hurdles, and if not for those educators, I would not be here today.”

He also quipped during his speech that his adoption by the coach wasn’t a Hollywood narrative, alluding to the 2009 hit film The Blind Side.

“No, I’m not Michael Oher from ‘The Blindside,’ although I did have dreams of the NFL,” Cockrell teased. “My message for teachers is understanding the power that we have to make positive or negative impacts in the lives of others.”

Cockrell went on to explain why he enjoys teaching and how physical education is linked to emotional well-being. He uses his personal experiences to inspire pupils to look above their own situations in order to overcome obstacles.

“Missouri is fortunate to have so many high-quality educators, and Darrion will be a wonderful representative as our state’s Teacher of the Year,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said in a statement. “He guides his students towards long-term physical and mental wellness, and the connections he has established will impact Crestwood children for years to come.”

Cockrell, who has been teaching at Crestwood Elementary since 2015, has established a unique exercise program.

“Crest-Fit,” which combines Cross-Fit with Crestwood Elementary, is an exercise program that began with pupils but has since expanded to include other schoolteachers and even parents.

It eventually evolved into an after-school activity. During the epidemic, he continues to disseminate the wellness message as pupils learn remotely, according to the statement.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis is a public research university in St. Louis, Missouri. Louis 2013 graduate also received the Twilight Award from the National Box Tops for Education in 2020. Chance The Rapper, a Grammy Award winner, presented him with the prestigious award.

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