Following in their footsteps

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — “The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree” the saying goes, and it seems especially fitting when applied to a parenting duo and their two children, all four of whom found themselves in the same profession and on the receiving end of the iconic apple — teaching.

Wayne and Gail Cox and their two children, Amber and Shawn, all arrived at the same path — teaching in Bladen County — different ways.

Wayne and Gail were married three weeks out of high school, and Gail planned on going into education. When they arrived home from their honeymoon, however, Wayne’s draft card was waiting in the mailbox.

“I always wanted to go into education,” Gail explained, “but when he got his draft card, life changed. I followed him around in the military for 20 years, getting some college credits along the way — some in Massachusetts and some in Germany.”

The couple moved to Bladen County and, in her late 30s, Gail finished her education at UNC-Pembroke and ended up working at Elizabethtown Primary.

Meanwhile, Wayne retired from the military in 1989 and spent the next six years doing odd jobs. A self-described lover of history, he saw his wife’s passion for teaching and thought the career might suit him as well. After obtaining his degree, he set about teaching social studies to seventh-graders at Clarkton School of Discovery.

Their children, who spent at least a portion of their lives witnessing their parents’ careers in education, reached the deciding point in their own lives.

Shawn entered college thinking that he would major in art and spent more than three years working toward that goal. The pull to education, however, proved too much, and he began working toward obtaining his education degree.

Wayne said he was initially skeptical about his son’s plans.

“I asked him, ‘Are you sure this is what you want? The pay isn’t great and the paperwork is unbelievable, so make sure this is what you want,”’ he said.

Shawn obtained his education degree and currently works as a third-grade teacher at Plain View Primary.

In keeping with family tradition, it seems, Amber resisted the pull and initially intended to major in psychology.

“I would see how drained my parents would be at end of day from putting in so many hours and then having to come home and focus on their own children. I fought it for a long time and didn’t want that in my life,” Amber said.

She left her pursuit of a psychology degree, however, held numerous odd positions, and, at age 31, finally gave in and went back to school to get her teaching degree.

“Finally,” she said, “something just clicked. This was my calling all along, and I just didn’t realize it.”

She is now in her second year as a seventh-grade teacher at Clarkton School of Discovery.

“When they told us they wanted to be teachers, there was a mixture of excitement and apprehension,” said Gail. “I just wanted to make sure that, at this age, this is what they wanted.”

They seem to be sure.

“Now that I’m teaching, I love every minute of it,” Amber said.

She added, “With dad, I can’t go anywhere without running into somebody he taught or somehow impacted. I jokingly say I have to live up to that. Now that I’m teaching at the same school where he was, and students come up to me and say they love coming into my classroom, that reminds me of dad. I feel like I’m living in his shadow, but in a good way.”

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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