KILLEEN, Texas – Out of 77 school districts across the twelve-county education service area of Region 12, a Killeen Independent School District educator has been selected for the top teaching award — the 2022 Region 12 Elementary Teacher of the Year.
James Cook of Cedar Valley Elementary is the Elementary Teacher of the Year. Cook has been teaching for six years – all in Killeen ISD – serving as a fifth-grade math teacher at Cedar Valley Elementary for the last five, and previously as a Title I aide. Before becoming a teacher, he served 22 years in the United States Army, with his last position as Senior Instructor/Platoon SGT/Operations Sergeant.
Cook believes in building relationships fostering trust – allowing students to become free-thinking individuals capable of researching facts and making informed decisions while finding their purpose. He vows each day to make a positive impact on someone.
After teaching all core subjects, Cook saw a growing need for delivering math content for students to use outside of the classroom. In addition to traditional lessons, he developed and uses a system teaching financial literacy, budgeting, borrowing, and contract litigation. Knowing the lifelong value that financial literacy provides, Cook’s program pays students for attendance, good citizenship, peer tutoring, and leadership or volunteer tasks.
As an educator, Cook believes teachers can significantly impact students by engaging with them outside of the classroom. The former military sergeant often attends his students’ sporting events, performances, or church services. After agreeing to attend one such church service, a student surprised Cook by honoring him as the most influential person in her life, helping her trust and communicate with adults, despite former tumultuous experiences.
In addition to providing academic instruction relating to the real world and building strong relationships with his students, Cook works to support his students’ social-emotional health. The former Army sergeant initiated “Free Hugs,” which is part of a more extensive program to bring people back together. His students created signs offering free hugs to parents and grandparents from their teachers. Once the program took off, the kids lit up with excitement after witnessing the difference a small, simple action can have on others.
Cook works tirelessly to instill a love for learning in his students and model his passion for lifelong learning, sharing the challenges and rewards along his life’s journey. Ultimately, the elementary teacher feels that while a student may one day forget what he taught them, they will never forget how he made them feel. The teacher enjoys hearing from former students eager to share and hear more about Cook’s journey, but he mostly loves learning how students are embracing their journeys.
- 2021 Elementary Teacher of the Year for Killeen ISD
- 2021 Cedar Valley Elementary Teacher of the Year
- 2014, 2010 & 2005 Army Meritorious Service Medal
- Repeat recipient of Army Commendation Medal & Army Achievement Medal
Cook has a Masters in Education from Louisiana University, a Bachelor of Arts from Troy University, and holds a 4-8 generalist teaching certification. He is married to Keina Cook, a Killeen High School teacher, who taught the first African American Studies course in Killeen ISD. Together they have three children, a fifth grader at Cedar Valley Elementary, a sophomore at Harker Heights High School, and their oldest is a Class of 2012 Ellison High School graduate.
Source: Killeen Independent School District