To be named Teacher of the Year is an honor itself. For Darrion Cockrell, it’s a remarkable accomplishment, considering his turbulent early life.
Now, as Missouri’s Teacher of the Year, he wants his story to inspire others.
Cockrell said his mother was in and out of his life because of drug addiction, and his father was killed selling drugs when Cockrell was 4. A St. Louis native, Cockrell was placed in foster care by the state at 6, and he bounced around to different homes for about a year. His grandmother eventually gained custody of him and his six other siblings.
“When my grandmother was working trying to do the best she could to raise us, my siblings and I were out in the streets with our friends and in gangs,” Cockrell, 34, told NBC News. “Even though I was going to school, I couldn’t really focus. It’s hard to worry about homework when I’ve got to worry about putting food on our table. We had to live paycheck-to-paycheck, and when you’re living like that, your mind isn’t thinking about the future — you’re thinking about the present and maybe the next day.”