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News Release

April 10, 2023

Ploghoft lecture to feature 2021 Missouri Teacher of the Year April 12

Darrion Cockrell, a physical education teacher at Crestwood Elementary School in St. Louis will share his story with the Northwest Missouri State University community as the School of Education hosts its spring Ploghoft Diversity Lecture.

Cockrell’s lecture, titled “More Than Just Teachers,” begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, in Room 212 at the Carl and Cheryl Hughes Fieldhouse. It is free and open to the public.

“We are thrilled to host Mr. Cockrell on our campus and look forward to a talk that is sure to ignite a fire and inspire the next generation of teachers,” Dr. Tina M. Ellsworth, an assistant professor of education at Northwest, said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that more people are drawn to the profession after hearing him speak.”

Cockrell has taught at Crestwood since 2015, where he implemented “Crest-Fit” training, a health and fitness program with students as well as teacher and parent involvement. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he provided five- to 30-minute virtual exercise sessions for students, shared inspiring messages, incorporated his family into the sessions and provided opportunities for families to work out together.

Cockrell started the “Dads’ Club Open Gym,” a weekly event for local fathers to play basketball in the evening, and he is an active member of Crestwood’s diversity committee and the Lindbergh district’s strategic planning team.

Cockrell was selected by a committee of peers and education partners across the state as the 2021 Missouri Teacher of the Year. He also received a 2020 National Box Tops for Education Twilight Award, presented by Chance the Rapper.

A graduate of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, he began his career as a paraprofessional through the Special School District of St. Louis County. He also worked in the Parkway C-2 school district and the Rockwood R-VI before transitioning to Crestwood.


About the Ploghoft Diversity Lecture series

Northwest’s Ploghoft Diversity Lecture series is funded through the lasting generosity of the late Dr. Milton Ploghoft and his wife, Zella. The series features speakers and activities that broaden the educational perspectives of Northwest teacher candidates and inform all students about the issues facing the education of students from diverse environments.

Dr. Ploghoft, a 1949 Northwest alumnus, authored a number of textbooks in the social studies and lived abroad for many years, founding the College of Education in Kano, Nigeria, lecturing at Saigon University and leading the university's international programs in such disparate places as Chile, Cameroun, Botswana, the Yucatan, Swaziland and in what was then South Vietnam. In 1992, he became the founding editor of the African Education Research Network. He was professor emeritus at Ohio University at the time of his death in 2018.

Zella, who passed away in 2010, completed her elementary and secondary education at Horace Mann Laboratory School at Northwest.

For more information about the Ploghoft Diversity Lecture series, contact Dr. David Kiene, an associate professor of professional education at Northwest, at 660.562.1774 or


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215