The idea that people can’t change is just not true. Your upbringing, childhood, and even young adult years do not define the person you’ll be for the rest of your life.
People change and evolve; they learn and develop. It’s unrealistic to expect somebody to retain the same mindset from childhood right through to old age.
Darrion Cockrell knows this more than anybody else.
The former gang member turned his life around, and has since been awarded the 2021 Missouri Teacher of the Year.
In his acceptance speech, Darrion, who his phys ed pupils affectionately refer to as ‘Mr DC’, shared the inspiring story of how he came to this successful stage in his life.
We’ll warn you: his story is an emotional one, but it’s well worth a listen.
Darrion had an incredibly traumatic childhood. His mom was a drug addict and his dad had been murdered when he was four.
He was taken out of his home and put into foster care. During this period of his life, he said, he felt like he was “born just to fail.”
Drugs and violence was a normal part of young Darrion’s life. Aged just 10, he joined a gang.
It’s ironic that he has now been named 2021 Missouri Teacher of the Year, as Darrion hated school as a child.
He used to deliberately act out and get in trouble. He knew that back then, while it was “normal life” for him, he was going down the wrong path.
His friends were either ending up dead, or in jail, and Darrion felt that he was destined for the same fate.
“That was ordinary life, and sadly, this is the same reality for many of those kids living in that same neighbourhood where I grew up.”
But Darrion, a young boy at the time, was yet to know that nine years later, he’d be adopted by a couple who would make him want to go to school.
The couple, a football coach and his wife, made sure that Darrion was given the opportunity to get on the right path.
They enrolled Darion in a new school, and that’s where his life began to change for the better.
“My new teachers truly cared. They pushed me and my family. They supported us immensely. Those experiences and connections changed my perspective on both people and school.”
We’ve all experienced the good and the bad of teachers. There are teachers who are clearly in the job because they’ve been unable to work through their own traumatic school years. These teachers don’t tend to have the best wishes of their pupils at heart.
And then there are teachers who feel as if they were put on this earth to teach – the teachers we all hope to have.
The message that Darrion was keen to share was that every teacher out there has the power “to make positive or negative impacts in the lives of others”.
There were many inspiring teachers in the line-up for the award, but Darrion’s dedication to his after-school fitness training program, “Crest-Fit”, and his continued efforts to providing virtual exercise sessions during Covid-19 were ultimately what won him the title.
Sharing his story on Lindbergh Schools’ YouTube, Darrion talked of the people who had made a difference in his life.
“These are just a few of those people who recognized my potential and put me on the path to success. They helped shape the man that you see today: a husband, a father, a friend and an educator.”
“All it takes is one person, one interaction, one kind word to make the world a better place.”
You can listen to Darrion’s entire inspiring story in the video below.
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