EDMOND — Elementary teachers Allison Cockerell and Laurin Fain know what it's like to grow up in a district where students are made to feel like stars.
“This was a great school district to grow up in. I felt like I could do anything,” said Cockerell, a second-grade teacher at John Ross Elementary School.
Cockerell, 24, and Fain, 25, are among 73 first-time teachers and more than 230 teachers new this year to the Edmond Public School District, said district spokeswoman Susan Parks-Schlepp.
They weren't close friends, but Cockerell and Fain lived in nearby neighborhoods, shopped at the same stores and attended Edmond North High School together.
Cockerell earned a degree in early childhood development from the University of Oklahoma. Fain has a degree in kinesiology from Oklahoma City University, having attended all four years on a softball scholarship.
Today they share memories and ZIP codes as both have returned to teach in the district they grew up in.
“I tried different majors and was undecided for a while and then just thought ‘why am I not happy?' I realized that this is what I'm supposed to do,” Cockerell said.
In her homeroom class, she talked about her new job while monitoring a reading lesson and catching inappropriate behavior from the corner of her eye.
Cockerell's classroom is neat and colorful and filled with books. Her students are well-behaved and polite, fidgeting only slightly as recess approached.
A stylish chair and desk occupy a corner of the room.
“Those are mine,” she said with a laugh. “I'm up here all the time, and I thought they'll have better use being here than in my apartment.”
The modern furniture is a reminder of Cockerell's young age. At 24, she is launching a career she hopes to maintain for the rest of her life, one she speaks of with confidence and affection.
“I'm the first teacher in my family after my aunt Nancy,” she said of her father's sister, who died of cancer when Cockerell was young. Cockerell's father and older brothers work in the oil business, and her twin sister is in the medical field.
She is aware of the role she plays in the lives of her students.
“These early years are critical to their development,” Cockerell said. “Sometimes it's scary to think that what they'll take from here is what will be their foundation for learning for the rest of their lives. But then, sometimes it's exciting to know that I'm a part of that; that I have that power to help shape them into who they will become,” she said.
Three miles away, Fain stretched in the gym at Orvis Risner Elementary School while her students imitated her movements. She believes they are slowly crafting the art of self-awareness, steadily learning the value of healthy living.
She leads them in activities such as dodgeball, baseball, basketball and kickball.
“I was in softball, basketball, diving ... I was a jock,” she said of her days at Edmond North.
She teaches physical education and health at Orvis Risner and is assistant softball coach at Edmond North.
She married her high school sweetheart, Alex, who works in human resources. In her spare time, she is learning the fine art of cooking.
She tries to make an impact on each student she meets.
“I only have 30 minutes a day with my kids,” Fain said. “Each day, I tell myself to try to connect with each one in some way. Whether it's giving them a high-five or encouraging them to keep going. I don't want anyone leaving my class without having been recognized.”
Fain said she was overjoyed to learn she would be teaching in the district.
“I would love to do this for the rest of my life,” she said. “I love this district. I want to start a family here; I want my children to go to school here.”
On one wall in Cockerell's classroom at John Ross, yellow stars are glued neatly to construction paper. On each page, a student's name and goals are displayed.
“We are stars,” the poster reads.
“I'm going to continue the tradition,” Cockerell said.