Darrion Cockrell had a rough start in life. He didn’t enjoy school, and at age ten, he joined a gang. Before long, he believed that he would end up either dead or in jail, with no other options in sight for him.

Now, that little boy who started on the wrong path is Missouri’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, and he’s sharing his story to inspire and motivate others who believe they can’t shape their own future.

According to CBS, Darrion’s life at home was hard long before he ended up in a gang. He says that his mother was addicted to drugs and by age 16 had given birth to two of what would ultimately be six children. His father was killed when Darrion was four, and just a couple years later, Darrion found himself in and out of the foster system.

It ended up being a select few teachers who changed Darrion’s life around for the better. Two gym teachers (along with other educators and a worker at a boys’ home) helped shape him into the man he is today, and his high school football coach ended up adopting him.

The impact of Darrion’s positive role models has now spread to other children, as Darrion has become a PE teacher himself. He understands how physical education can help be an outlet for kids and boost their performance in their other classes, and he’s trying and succeeding to be the positive adult influence for his students too.

Check out Darrion’s inspiring speech about his life below:


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