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Debate coach is Clayton's 'Teacher of the Year'

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Trophies cover the countertop next to Anna Cox's desk at Jonesboro High School.

Several of the awards were won by the school's mock trial team, for which she shares faculty coaching duties with her husband, Andrew.

There's a large gavel for the team's national championship from earlier this year; a small replica of a "Scales of Justice" statue, representing the team's fifth-place, national finish in 2006, and several state and regional championship plaques.

Cox will soon be able to add another award recognizing her accomplishments: She is Clayton County's 2008 Teacher of the Year.

"This is the best year I've ever had as a teacher," she said. "I am very honored to represent Clayton County. There is nothing static about teaching, because it is a new world every day. I enter the classroom each day with new ideas and new ways of passing on the knowledge that I have."

Cox will be honored during the annual Teacher of the Year recognition ceremony Nov. 15, at the Performing Arts Center.

She has been teaching at Jonesboro High School for seven years, the length of her career. In addition to her classroom work and responsibilities with the mock trial team, she serves as an advisor to the Judicial Club, the Latin Club and the Student Council. She is also helping to coordinate this year's school prom.

Teaching in Clayton County isn't something new to the Cox family. Her grandmother, Caroline White, used to teach in Lavonia. Her mother, Laura Wiley, is a teacher at Mount Zion Elementary School, and her father, Larry, was a hospital-homebound teacher for Clayton County until he retired. Her husband, Andrew Cox, teaches chemistry at Jonesboro High School, and her mother-in- law taught English at the school as well.

Anna Cox entered teaching partly because of her family history, but also because of the people who taught her at Mount Zion High School, from which she graduated in 1996.

She became her school's mock trial coach in 2005, when the team finished fifth in the nation. The team won the state championships in 2006 and 2007. The school also won state titles without her in 1988, 2002, and 2003.

Cox said she remembers being on the mock trial team at Mount Zion for two years in the mid-1990's, and watching Jonesboro win virtually every year. "If you cannot beat them, join them!" she said.

Cox got a bachelor's degree in English education in 2000, from the University of Georgia, and is currently working on a master's degree in liberal arts at Clayton State University. She plans to graduate in May 2008, as one of the first students to earn a graduate-level degree from the institution.

"It's very exciting and a bit unexpected," Cox said. "I am excited to serve as a representative of the program, and I am proud to tell people what a great job Clayton State has done in creating it."

She decided to minor in Latin while she attended UGA because her grandfather, Joe White, studied it in the 1930's. She thought it would be "neat" to emulate her grandfather's interest in classical languages.

Braeden Orr, one of Cox's Latin students and a member of the school's mock trial team, said she makes learning the language a lot of fun by having the students use flash cards, and participate in activities and projects.

"She makes things easy to understand, which definitely helps when you're learning any language, because you're trying to remember what all of the words mean," Orr said.

Cox is in the process of completing her application for the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition. The winners will be announced next spring. While she is used to coaching the mock trial team to victory against statewide competition, she's having to get used to the shoe being on the other foot this time.

"We, the teachers and attorney coaches [of the mock trial team], tell the students when we compete outside Clayton County, how important it is that they represent their hometown with grace and class," she said. "Though known at the national competition as the 'beasts,' the team also became known as the kindest team who always shook hands and handled themselves well in competition. I will follow my own advice."