Texas educator and bandleader Stephen Cox fell in love with teaching for how special it is when a student learns something new. Now — 10 years after joining the small district home to Eastland High School as the school’s band director — he’s been named the recipient of the 2022 Grammy Music Educator Award.
“I fell in love with it. I liked the idea that whenever you sit down and you work with someone and they leave and they’re better. It’s beautiful. Teaching is beautiful,” Cox told CBS News’ Jamie Wax.
His teachings never left some former students who said they still reach out to Cox for help.
“Now that I’m a band director myself I’m constantly calling him or texting him and getting advice on things. He’s just a wellspring of knowledge as far as band directors. So, I would say once a student, always a student, for sure,” Cody Hutcheson said.
His students say it’s how Cox goes beyond the classroom that makes him special.
“I feel a responsibility to them. I hope that what it means to them is that they know that I love them unconditionally and that, no matter how crazy things get, as long as they want to move forward. I’m always going to be right there next to them to help them do it,” Cox said.
Outside of school, Cox created the Eastland Jazz Festival, part of his dedication to the arts throughout the community.
“What is special about Eastland is the people, right? It’s the people. It’s the students. It’s the other teachers. It’s people in the community,” he said.
He said he sees school and community as the same — and his commitment to both comes with a singular focus.
“The mission is the kids. The mission is making sure they have what they need to choose their path and once you’re able to choose your path, I mean, the sky’s the limit, right?” he said.
Cox was selected out of 1,135 initial nominations submissions from 49 states.