Position: Fourth Grade Teacher
School: John F. Kennedy Elementary Math and Science Magnet School
School District: Desert Sands Unified School District
City, State: Indio, California
About the Nominee: Darcie Cotton was nominated by her principal, Ann Morales.
Darcie Cotton, a fourth grade teacher, works above and beyond for everyone at Kennedy Elementary. Kennedy is a Title I school at the heart of the Coachella Valley in Indio, California. Ninety-nine percent of the students are on free and reduced lunch, with 55% English learners and a proficiency rate of 21% in English Language Arts and 9% in Math. Mrs. Cotton is an excellent teacher. She is well trained in Direct Interactive Instruction, Thinking Maps, Singapore Math and other best instructional practices to meet the diverse student need. Classroom instruction is explicit with high student engagement. She is often seen working with students completing a Thinking Map, a strategy for students to organize their thoughts in writing. Students are often given math problems on dry erase boards to complete for accuracy. Her evaluations are consistently “highly effective,” the highest level a teacher can receive.
Mrs. Cotton gets along with everyone so well that her nickname is “Darcify.” When the staff want something done, they say, “Give it to Darcie, she will Darcify it.” Mrs. Cotton has proven to make a difference in students' lives, many of whom come from broken homes, poverty, environments with domestic violence, etc. Mrs. Cotton knows when to follow her gut and, in one case, spoke up to help get a child removed from an abusive situation, resulting in the child receiving medical attention. This is the true definition of a LifeChanger in the community.
Mrs. Cotton’s giving nature impacts her 30 students and the entire school. She spearheads the school Yearbook, single-handedly on her own time. One time, she worked after school to raise money so that her students could go on a field trip. The students typically stay in the city of Indio because parents are working two jobs to maintain a household. Mrs. Cotton wanted the students to experience being a pioneer and sleeping in a covered wagon. Since August 2015, she worked to raise funds to attend this field trip ($5,000). The student population is limited financially and is unable to participate in fundraisers. Mrs. Cotton coordinated fundraisers at Back to School Night, Indio Recreation Center, Math-a-thon and more. While teaching, doing fundraisers and raising a family of three, she discovered she was pregnant. She is like an Ever Ready battery that just doesn’t quit. She was unable to raise enough money to attend the field trip. Everyone was devastated. Instead, she scheduled a trip to the local water park. Everything was arranged; students and chaperones got on the bus and were off. Once they got there, they were told “Sorry. We are closed.” This was an error on the water park’s part that nearly undid Mrs. Cotton. However, with perseverance, patience and determination, she rescheduled the trip three days before school ended. Again, Mrs. Cotton is a LifeChanger for those she serves. She never gives up!
Mrs. Cotton’s commitment to improvement is evidenced by her actions. She asked if we could paint the poles on our campus to look like pencils. Everything that Darcy touches turns to gold. Five teachers, parents and 15 volunteers from a local missionary donated their time (6:00-10:00) in July at 108 degrees. This was a huge success, putting a smile on everyone’s face. Schools in the district are replicating her creativity! She manages the Social Committee to recognize everyone through activities and motivational goodies. She created a bulletin board with buckets for each teacher for treats and handcrafted gifts for volunteers (more evidence of her commitment to make a difference). As you can see, she does all these things because she cares about doing good. There is no end to the special things! She is recognized as a leader by everyone. She helped create the district’s modules. She represents the school at the district’s Curriculum Council and TRAC leadership team, and also serves as the grade level representative. Her professionalism, instruction, and commitment make her a LifeChanger!