When Kari Cox was in fifth grade, she decided she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, and now, years later, Cox is teaching fifth grade at Monett Intermediate School.
"I really think this is where I am supposed to be," said Cox. "I had brief thoughts about other careers but teaching is where my heart kept telling me to go."
The educator, who remains passionate about her chosen profession, was recently selected as EFCO's Teacher of the Month for January.
As the monthly award winner, Cox was presented with a special plaque plus a $250 check that she can use for her classroom.
"This award was very unexpected and greatly appreciated," said Cox. "I work with amazing people that support each other. I think it is wonderful that EFCO gives this opportunity for people to recognize teachers for what teachers do."
Cox said her students are excited about what the additional money can mean for the classroom.
"We started making a list of things to buy that would make our classroom better," said Cox. "So far, we are buying an electric pencil sharpener, different colored highlighters and nonfiction books."
Cox, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Drury University, has been teaching for eight years, all of which have been spent with the Monett R-1 District. She taught fourth grade for two years and then moved to fifth grade where she's been for the past six years. She also provides tutoring for students after school two days a week.
For Cox, teaching is fun and exciting.
"I really enjoy my students' different personalities, their humor and all the stories they tell," said Cox. "I love when I teach a lesson, and I think we are headed in one direction, and they take it in a whole different direction.
"I love when they get so caught up in what we are reading or learning they don't want to quit," continued Cox. "We learn so much together."
Outside of the classroom, Cox loves traveling with her family and learning about the history of the places they visit.
"I enjoy learning about history and often that is where my vacations take me," said Cox. "If I can't travel there, then you will find me watching the History or Smithsonian channels on TV."
Cox said she wouldn't be a teacher without her family's support.
"My husband, daughter, sister and parents have made my education, late nights and conferences far away so much easier with their help," said Cox. "I couldn't do it without them."
The Teacher of the Month program is sponsored by EFCO, a Pella Company, and The Monett Times. Any public or private school teacher who teaches kindergarten through 12th grade in Monett, Purdy, Verona, Pierce City or Freistatt is eligible for the award. Nominations can be made by students, parents or fellow educators.
For more information about the program or the nomination process, email firstname.lastname@example.org.