Darrion Cockrell, a physical education teacher at Lindbergh Schools’ Crestwood Elementary (St. Louis), was selected by a committee of his peers and education partners across the state as the 2021 Missouri Teacher of the Year. He becomes the 52nd Missouri Teacher of the Year since the program’s inception in 1957, is the second recipient from the Lindbergh school district, and is the first male to capture the state’s top education award since 2015.
“As a physical educator, I have the unique opportunity to prepare my students both mentally and physically by teaching them the building blocks of fitness and health,” Cockrell said. “Combining a fun atmosphere with music, fitness and healthy life skills has truly become a recipe for success in my classroom.”
Affectionately known as “Mr. DC” to students, staff and families throughout the district, Cockrell has taught at Crestwood since 2015, where one of his many highlights has been the implementation of the “Crest-Fit” training program. “Crest-Fit,” a combination of CrossFit and Crestwood Elementary, is a health and fitness program that started with his students, progressed to a weekly after-school workout activity for teachers, and culminated weeks later with parental involvement. One particular workout, styled after a popular dance, spread to multiple schools throughout the community and tallied thousands of views on social media.
“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. “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.”
Like many educators, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Cockrell took his talents to the virtual realm by creating fun, instructional, high-energy videos from his basement to help students stay motivated and active during remote learning. In addition to providing 5- to 30-minute exercise sessions for his students, he shared inspiring messages, incorporated his family into his live sessions and provided opportunities for families to work out together.
“Mr. DC is loved by all,” said Dr. Jodi Oliver, Cockrell’s principal from August 2015 through June 2020. “Students look up to him and see him as a facilitator to their learning in physical education and as someone who will guide them to make the best possible personal decisions. He naturally builds relationships by showing his fun and silly demeanor, which makes him such a relatable person.”
Cockrell, a December 2013 graduate of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, began his career as a paraprofessional through the Special School District of St. Louis County and worked in the Parkway C-2 school district in the 2014 spring semester. He then spent one year at Lafayette High School (Rockwood R-VI) before starting his current role at Crestwood in August 2015. In addition to creating the Crest-Fit program, Cockrell started the “Dads’ Club Open Gym,” a weekly event for local fathers to play basketball in the evening. He is also an active member of Crestwood’s diversity committee and the Lindbergh district’s strategic planning team.
Most recently, Cockrell received a 2020 National Box Tops for Education Twilight Award, presented by Grammy-award winning rapper, singer/songwriter and activist, Chance the Rapper.
“Everything we do as educators should be in an effort to make connections, build trust and make sure all students find the success that lives within them,” Cockrell said. “Students are extremely diverse in the way they learn, but all it takes is one person to make sure their educational experience is great!”
Cockrell will serve as Missouri’s representative in the National Teacher of the Year program. He will be honored during a virtual recognition event on Thursday, Oct. 15, along with the other six finalists, semifinalists and regional teachers of the year.
The Missouri Teacher of the Year program recognizes the efforts of effective teachers, working tirelessly to provide a high-quality education to their students. Misty Grandel, an English language arts teacher from Fordland High School (Fordland R-III), is the current Missouri Teacher of the Year.