Region 12 Elementary Teacher of the Year
Taking the stage to deliver words of motivation to principals, Killeen ISD’s elementary teacher of the year James Cook learned that he was moving on in the state’s teacher of the year process.
The Cedar Valley Elementary School fifth-grade teacher is the Region 12 Education Service Center Elementary Teacher of the Year.
Superintendent John Craft took the stage at the main ballroom of the Killeen Civic and Conference Center Tuesday during a training session for principals and assistant principals. He introduced Cook, then made the surprise reveal.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Cook said moments after stepping off the stage. “I also feel enormous pressure. I’ve seen so many teachers do such amazing things. I have to show that to the whole region.”
Upon receiving the regional honor, Cook turned to the assembled principals and urged them to be quick to recognize their hard-working staff members as they return to campus in August leading to the start of school.
The honored teacher told principals that he is the doorstop for his students – he makes sure the door to learning, growth and care is always open to all.
“I told them I’m the doorstop,” he said. “I lift them up. I recognize them. I empower them.”
After serving in the US Army 22 years, Cook said he began observing the bus stop close to his house, where children seemed excited to be going off to school.
The husband of Killeen High School history teacher Keina Cook said he wanted to be the reason students get excited to go to school.
“I want to be that teacher that teaches them to believe in themselves,” said Cook.
It was a teacher that first inspired him.
As a high school sophomore, the award-winning teacher said he began losing interest in academic pursuits when his English teacher, Mrs. Williams, encouraged him to pursue an interest in writing.
“She built me up,” he said. “She built me up through my writing and encouraged me.”
Cook has incorporated financial literacy into his teaching. He has also shared his knowledge from military service, teaching students the correct way to fold the flag and aspects of good citizenship.
The popular teacher is also known to attend students’ sporting events, performances and church activities.
“My students are walking the journey with me,” he said. “They work hard. They help me. We build a family bond early. They inspire me to keep going, to keep making a difference.”
Cook now represents a region that serves 76 school districts in 12 counties in the Texas Teacher of the Year process.