Darrion Cockrell grew up on the rough side of life. He struggled from family issues as well as difficulty in school as a young man, until he ran into a few educators who changed the course of his life.
Now, Darrion is a teacher himself, one of the best. But he isn’t just one of the best teacher’s at Crestwood Elementary in the Lindbergh School District in St. Louis, he’s one of the best in his state. Cockrell, or Mr. DC, as the kids call him, was recently named Missouri’s Teacher of the Year.
He is dedicated to teaching kids physical education, but he never would have got there if no one had looked past his upbringing.
“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 4, and I began my journey in and out of the foster care system not long after my 6th birthday,” he continued.
That tumultuous family life did him no favours in school; he ended up hating school and joined a gang at 10. “Six-deuce-87 Kitchen Crip gangster. Yup, your 2021 Teacher of the Year used to be in a gang,” he said. “That was normal life for me. I was going down the wrong path, destined to end up just like my friends — dead or in jail,” he said.
But it was some of those educators who changed things. “I had a lot of struggles and a lot of hurdles and if not for those educators, I would not be here today,” he said.
Two P.E. teachers in particular helped him overcome the odds. He says they created another world for him when the one around him wasn’t going his way. In gym class, he could just be a kid, not a gangster.
At one point, he lived at a boys’ home near his middle school and he said a worker there named Ken, who looked after him, also made a huge impact on his life. “He taught me it’s OK to be tough, but at the same time it’s OK to be compassionate,” he said. “He was like a father figure to me.”
Ultimately though, it was the football coach who adopted him that made the biggest difference. “No, I’m not Michael Oher from ‘The Blindside,’ but I did have dreams of the NFL,” Cockrell said, adding that the adoption changed his perspective on life. “When I changed the way I looked at things, the things around me started to change.”
Now he is teacher of the year, a gym teacher at a school where he can make the same change in young people he deals with as was done for him when he was younger. Now, Mr. DC is not only trying to teach kids physical education, but about compassion and perseverance. He’s also your Good News Story of the Day, which you can find in full here.
Can you imagine what would have happened if all those people who made a positive impact on his life had instead treated him like the gang-banger he presented to the world? If they had judged him instead of reaching out to him he would never be the man he is now.
Story and Image from CBS News.