story by Ashley Elvington
Malala Yousafzai once said, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” While she may not admit it, Micaela Cox is easily changing the world through her efforts in teaching children of the Pee Dee. After all, it takes someone truly special to choose the field of education as their career.
Micaela shares, “I have always considered myself a teacher. When I was growing up, friends would come over and we would play school together. It was something that I always had my heart set on.” Once she graduated high school, Micaela knew what she wanted to be when it was time to enter the real world. “My choice [to teach] was influenced by multiple teachers that demonstrated the qualities of a good teacher. I remember the impact that they had on me, and it encouraged me to pour this same feeling into others. I have always loved children and working with them, whether it was babysitting or volunteering at children’s church.”
She received her undergrad in Early Childhood Education from Francis Marion University, a school known for creating impactful teachers. “My professors from Francis Marion are still a part of my life today. They continue to check in and meet my students each year. They are great cheerleaders, as well as friends.” Her studies continued to Coastal Carolina, where she received her master’s in Instructional Technology. “Throughout college, I was exposed to multiple age groups in preschool by working at Ebenezer Weekday Ministries. This job not only supported a college student, but it also taught me a few survival tools for the future.” Currently, Micaela teaches at McLaurin Elementary School as a Montessori teacher for four and five-year-olds. Before becoming Montessori certified, however, she taught in a traditional kindergarten classroom. It was here where Micaela created the foundation for her career in education.
Having experience in both a traditional and Montessori classroom, Micaela has seen the difference between the two settings. She explains, “A Montessori classroom is focused on self-discovery and independent learning. The transition was, of course, difficult for a teacher that is used to control. This classroom environment allows students to work at their own pace and grow from there. Each student is met where they are to make learning possible.” While the environment was certainly different from what she was used to, the goal was the same – to help each child succeed and understand that they matter in this world. She admits, “I feel as if the classroom is my mission field. Being at a public school, I pray that my students can see God through the love that I pour into them. Not every student of mine comes from a great home with lots of love. Therefore, grace is something that I try to extend to each of them.”
Teaching certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. Every day brings challenges of its own. “It comes with the job. One of the biggest challenges is knowing what some of my students go through when they leave school. Teachers carry that burden for them. Our hands are tied on what we are allowed to do. I worry about them and just want to bring them all home.”
Truly caring about her students, Micaela pays attention to the things they care about and take interest in. Most recently, it has been a passion that she too shares – photography. “I would love to have a photography club. When kids see photos of themselves around the classroom, it helps them feel at home. I would love to get a Polaroid camera and take photos of the kids throughout the year. I picture twinkly lights on a wire where the students can go and clip the pictures that they take onto the line. This allows other students and classroom visitors to see our creativity and see the fun that we are having.” For Micaela, no dream is too big when it comes to making her students happy.
While she is creating her own legacy in the world of education, Micaela is quick to show her appreciation to those who have paved the way for her and those who have helped her on tougher days. “Education is a hard field to walk into. Thankfully, I have a tribe of women that I am blessed to have support me and encourage me when the days are long. Mrs. Huffman was one of the women who took me under her wing and made sure that I was confident in my choices. She was a mentor, a shoulder to cry on, and a role model who poured into me, even when I didn’t ask for it.”
If you’re considering a career in teaching, Micaela shares this piece of advice with you: “Find that person. Your first year of teaching is more than likely going to be tough and you are going to want to quit multiple times. However, ignore the negative talk and listen to the positive voices that you hear instead.” Luckily for her students, they have a positive voice in their lives – something children in this world need today more than ever. Someone who is more than just a teacher, who is also a mentor and dependable source of support and encouragement. And she goes by the name Mrs. Cox.