By age 10, Darrion Cockrell was in a gang, bu now, the Missouri educator is the Teacher of the Year, named by the Missouri Department of Education in October.

According to CNN, Cockrell is a physical education teacher at Crestwood Elementary who endured a hard upbringing in St. Louis.

“I was born to a drug-addicted mother who had two of her six kids by the age of 16,” Cockrell said. “My father was murdered when I was 4, and I began my journey in and out of the foster care system not long after my 6th birthday.”

As a result, he turned to the streets but credits his teachers who set him on a better path. For that, he helps guides his own students “towards long-term physical and mental wellness.”

“Missouri is fortunate to have so many high-quality educators, and Darrion will be a wonderful representative as our state’s Teacher of the Year,” said Margie Vandeven, the state’s commissioner of education.

In his acceptance speech, Cockrell expresses the power educators have to change the trajectory of a student’s life.

“My message for teachers is understanding the power that we have to make positive or negative impacts in the lives of others,” Cockrell said.