Teresa Cox, Highland resident and teacher at Willowcreek Middle School, has a sense of compassion that touches everyone she meets.
“I really owe that to my grandparents,” Cox said. “They were my role models for everything, the greatest people in my world! They raised us, and really taught me how to be a compassionate person, to be forgiving and how to truly listen to other people. You need all of those traits to become a teacher.”
Cox typically teaches 7th and 8th grade reading, but was asked to take on a special high school course this year that prepares 9th graders for college and beyond.
“It’s really all about themselves and their futures,” Cox said. “Just opening up their eyes to all of the options they have, including college, trade schools, and vocations. They need to be aware of all of their available resources, and understand that they don’t have to decide their future based on what’s popular or even what their parents want,” she said.
Cox wants her students to know that it’s okay to follow a unique path to follow in life, that a for year college is not the only option, and that the most important thing is that they choose a career that makes them happy.
“I always told my own children that it’s important to do something they enjoy,” Cox said. “Money is a factor, but they need to make sure they’re happy with what they do. You don’t want to do something every day that you hate!”
Aside from giving students the tools they need to build their best lives, Cox finds other passions in the form of writing and traveling. Recently, these two worlds came together when she received a Lily Endowment Grant for the upcoming year. Each year, the Lily Foundation gives away 100 grants to 100 teachers, choosing winners from thousands of grant proposals. Cox won the grant on her first try!
“I was very excited to win the grant, especially since many teachers I know have written similar proposals up to five times and have yet to receive one,” Cox said. “It’s an amazing opportunity, and I’m thrilled to be a recipient!”
Cox’s proposal was about traveling through Europe visiting various concentration camps and sites form World War II, including the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam.
“I’ve always had a passion for learning about the Holocaust,” Cox said. “I’m constantly reading about it, which is good because it’s actually a required topic for my 8th grade reading students. I’ve also visited all the museums in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Skokie, Illinois. For some reason it’s always been so interesting to me. For me, it was a natural choice to write my proposal on a trip related to that topic.”
This summer Cox will embark on that very journey, visiting various sites in Germany, Poland, and Amsterdam before finishing up the trip in France.
When she’s not teaching or making plans for her upcoming summer adventure, Cox says she spends as much free time as she can with her grandchildren, Kinsley and Kendall.
“They are always excited about everything, even if they don’t quite understand what’s going on,” Cox said. “Walking up to their door and seeing them standing there jumping and screaming my name is one of the greatest things in the world!”
Whether she’s helping her students, embracing time with her family, or following her own passions, Teresa Cox puts her best self into everything she does.