Chris Cox

Chris Cox (center) was named Teacher of the Year for Hand-In-Hand Primary School, along with coworkers Courtney Ballard for Support Teacher of the Year (left) and Dara Creech for Support Staff of the Year (right). Pictured with the group are Superintendent Dr. Lisa Williams (far left) and Principal Dee Gaines (far right).

Chris Cox is Hand-In-Hand Primary School’s 2023-2024 Teacher of the Year for Thomas County Schools. Cox was selected by her peers.  She is described as a dedicated teacher who works hard to provide the very best for her students and searches for ways to better herself. 

Hand-In-Hand Principal Dee Gaines said, “Chris is always available to lead professional learning and to share her ideas and materials with her peers.”

Gaines also notes Cox’s belief that every child, provided the opportunity, can be successful by working closely with families and other staff members to assure that her students are supported and receive the accommodations they need. 

“I believe that a student’s learning takes families and educators working together to provide the support that each individual student will need throughout their years of education,” said Cox. “Encouraging families to become more involved in a student’s learning at this age sets the foundation for involvement and support as the student gets older.”

Cox encourages parent involvement through newsletters, educational apps, conferences, and inclusion in special events. 

Gaines said that Cox’s class runs like a well-oiled machine. 

“Her class is always calm and students know what is expected of them,” said Gaines. “She does a great job of teaching classroom rules and routines to her students.”    

Cox’s own philosophy on student success focuses on a learning environment that challenges and supports each individual student.  She insists that the classroom environment should provide a loving and supportive environment to help stimulate children mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially. 

“I need to take every student’s learning and emotional state and evolve my teaching style to fit each and every one of the children that have been entrusted to me,” said Cox.  “I say this because students will not change to fit me and my style; I have to change and fit their style or the learning environment will most likely not be successful.”

Cox began her career in 2009 at Hand-In-Hand supporting and learning from other teachers as a support teacher.  Cox continued in that role while working toward and earning a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Albany State University.  Cox has since been a pre-kindergarten teacher for eight years and completed her Master of Education at Thomas University in 2016.  In 2019, Cox transitioned to kindergarten working with EIP (Early Intervention Program) students. 

Cox didn’t set out to become an educator.  She initially wanted to be a nurse, but experiences with her mother and a high school teacher changed that, and she knew nursing was not her true calling. 

“School was not always easy for me,” said Cox. “I didn’t feel that I received the support that I needed to be successful in school. 

Martha Ruth Elkins, a ninth grade Home Economics teacher at Cairo High School, encouraged Cox to be the best that she could be and even after graduation, she would stop and ask about Cox’s education and life in general. 

“I knew that if that one teacher could make a difference in my life that I could make a difference in others,” said Cox. 

Cox also acknowledged the many sacrifices her mother made as a single parent to help her achieve graduation. 

“It was not an easy road, and I could not have pushed through if I didn’t have the support of my mom and family,” said Cox.  

Cox says that she owes her teaching career at Hand-In-Hand to former principal Jeanna Mayhall and to Connie Field for giving her the opportunity to work at the school as a support teacher that first year. 

“After experiencing being the teacher instead of the student, I was hooked!” said Cox. “Teaching was my true calling.”   

Cox said that she has continued to grow throughout her career at Hand-In-Hand through the guidance of great supporting teachers and administrators. She refers to them as her ‘second family.’

“I am so thankful to work with Chris Cox. I have learned from her hard work and dedication,” said Gaines. “She reminds me that nothing is too hard and that teaching children is a privilege.”

Hand-In-Hand also recognized two other outstanding staff members:  Support Staff of the Year is Dara Creech and Support Teacher of the Year is Courtney Ballard.

Creech serves Hand-In-Hand as the School Counselor.  Creech’s passion for children and love of her job is inspiring.  Parents, teachers, and students love her and respect her.  She is always buzzing around the school checking in on students and offering assistance where needed. 

“You can’t get too far without hearing, ‘I love you, Mrs. Dara!’” added Gaines.

Ballard started substitute teaching at Hand-In-Hand a year ago, and it did not take long for everyone to fall in love with her and her love for kids.  She always goes the extra mile, dressing up, and passing out homemade gifts. 

“It is obvious that Mrs. Courtney loves her job and her students because she always has a smile on her face and a kind word,” said Gaines.

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