GNMS teacher of year finds herself back in the classroom

Published 9:30 am Friday, December 23, 2022

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Growing up, there was always that one teacher that made learning subjects like science interesting. For the students of Gardner Newman Middle School, that teacher is Debbie Cox.

Cox and with Valeetia Ogletree are GNMS’s Teachers of the Year.

Cox’s education story has now gone full circle. She initially started in education before making a jump to accounting before reverting to education.

“When I got out of high school, I decided I didn’t want to repeatedly keep going to school, so I found a program that was doing career accounting,” Cox said. “I decided to try it, and I ended up not liking it. That’s when I decided to back to Georgia State and get my teaching degree.”

Cox said she decided to teach for the ability to interact with people and share her passion for science.

“When I was in accounting, the spark wasn’t there. Sharing mathematical numbers with peers was not it,” Cox said.

“I like working with this middle group of kids. They don’t know which direction they’re going, but when you reach them, it’s an amazing thing.”

Upon learning she won the title, Cox said she was shocked, especially since she had won the title before during the 2019 – 2020 school year.

“I was very shocked because we have a school full of people who are worthy of it,” Cox said. “I was very surprised and very thankful.”

As a science teacher, Cox said the decision came from wanting to bring life to a subject that is looked at as being dull.

“When I was in school, science was very dry. I thought I could bring something to it and do something more than just bookwork,” Cox said. “One thing I do, which the kids think is crazy, is that I have a song for every [piece of] content. I’ll be back there just dancing and singing, and doing it on purpose, but if you listen to the lyrics, and look at the board, I’m using it to teach the material.”

In using this unique way to teach, Cox said she’s had some high schoolers come back to tell her that the songs came in handy and helped them do well on tests.

“I wanted to bring it to life as it should be,” Cox said.

Cox said being able to instill life lessons in her students has been the most fulfilling part of teaching.

“I tell them it’s going to be different when you go to high school. Some of these kids you’re trying to impress now are not going to be the kids you’re trying to impress in high school,” Cox said. “A lot of them will come back and say, ‘oh my gosh, genetics was a breeze because you said to pay attention and biology and genetics will be easy.’ Those kinds of things have been the most rewarding.”

Cox said GNMS feels like a family and the staff is supportive.

“The people here are always uplifting,” Cox said. “If you have a bad day, there’s always somebody that’s going to brighten it up for you.”

When Cox is not in the classroom, she is a competitive tennis player and enjoys fitness and nutrition.  During the summers, Cox teaches summer school, travels and spends time with her family.