CORRECTION: The previous article stated that Austin was the author of this teacher nomination. Tom Tripp is the correct author for this letter. Apologies for the error. Thank you,
This tribute is long overdue. I’m 59 now, but in 1966 I was starting 8th grade at South Davis Jr. High. I was assigned to teacher, Robert D. Cox, for three consecutive periods (English, Literature and Geography) at South Davis Jr. High in the fall of 1966. As I looked around the room, I realized that I was surrounded by reputed “trouble makers” from my seventh grade class from the year before. With a little reflection I realized that I fit right in with this group of potential rogues. In 7th grade, I’d “visited” with the principal a couple of times for fighting. I was perhaps disruptive in some of my 7th grade classes. Mr. Cox was big, seemed stern and looked a lot like the marine sergeant he was during the Second World War. Mr. Cox knew how to take charge of a group of problem kids. He had a presence that caught (maybe demanded) our attention. Without being abusive, we learned early on that Mr. Cox had clear expectations for attention, behavior and performance. His teaching methods formed a template for learning many subjects and instilled disciplined thinking and created confidence for students that struggled with learning in general. I learned grammar and punctuation. [I still smile every time I properly punctuate a compound complex sentence and know that it came from Mr. Cox’s 8th grade.] Mr. Cox taught us about government and parliamentary procedures. He arranged a special field trip during school time to visit Utah’s Legislature while they were in session in February. Those in the class built vocabulary and to think creatively through weekly crossword puzzle exercises. He instilled a love of reading in reluctant students by explaining that “literature was really just good stories,” and he’d frequently read exciting stories to the class to prove his point. He’d use examples from history to illustrate life lessons. Mr. Cox would offer wisdom and realistic insights on how to plan your future. While Mr. Cox at times seemed tough at times but in the end, it was clear that he cared about his group of difficult and often challenging students. He provided a chance for students struggling in the system to get a new start. There were lots of kids with all kinds of problems. Not all of them were helped, but as I look back, Mr. Cox “saved” me and many others. It was a turning point in my life. I learned how to study and succeed at school. I learned to behave and have some social responsibility.
I went on to succeed in school with university degree in engineering. I have had a good life not in small part to Mr. Cox, a teacher who was willing to take on the troublemakers of the school and make a difference.
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