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Though his job title has changed, Shane Cox moved just a few feet to get there.
Cox, who has served as a teacher in the Taylor County School District for 10 years, was recently named assistant principal of Taylor County Middle School.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," Cox said. "I'll just be working hand-in-hand with [TCMS Principal Tony] Jewell. Whatever he needs me to do, I'll be his right-hand man."
Cox wrapped up his second year as an instructor at the district's Virtual Charter School in May and previously taught exceptional education and social studies at Taylor County High School.
"This is where I went to school. I'm a cardinal, and you know, it means a lot to me to be able to be here," Cox said. "I went to Mannsville Elementary, Taylor County Middle, and graduated from Taylor County High School. I just want to give back."
Cox completed his Rank I in administration at University of the Cumberlands in 2012, but said preparation for his new leadership role began much earlier, when he was just starting out as an instructor at the Central Kentucky Youth Academy, a maximum-security juvenile detention facility in Willisburg.
There, Cox said he discovered his passion for working with at-risk youth and said he applied lessons he learned through his experiences at the academy when he moved on to teach in Taylor, Green and Russell county school districts.
"Here in Taylor County, in our public school district, we don't give up on kids," Cox said. "We've had that zero dropout rate for four years. It's going to be five."
Because one of his primary responsibilities as assistant principal is to be in charge of disciplinary action for students, Cox said his background working with at-risk youth will help him fulfill this role.
He said discipline issues at the middle school level will be different in some ways because of the age difference, but predicts the transition will be a smooth one.
"Middle school is a very difficult time in [children's] lives, but it's also a very crucial time," Cox said.
Calling the middle school years a "jumping off point," Cox said he understands the importance of getting middle school age students on the right track for them to do well at the high school level and beyond.
"It's very important that you create an atmosphere that promotes student achievement and excellence, and you work hard with these kids, because these kids are going through a lot in their lives right now," Cox said. "And if we don't work hard to meet their needs, we lose them. By the time they get to high school, they're shut down."
In his last year as a teacher at TCHS, Cox said he worked with a student who became the first person in his family to receive a high school diploma.
"It's a lot of work to see where those students come from, but they work hard, and when you work with them and see them walk across the stage and get that diploma, it makes everything you do worthwhile," Cox said. "That's what it's all about."
Cox said the Taylor County School District is special because there is a shared vision to make a difference in students' lives, and it runs from Superintendent Roger Cook and the board members all the way down to the elementary school.
"It's such an exciting time to be a student at Taylor County," Cox said.
Jewell said Cox is a very welcomed addition to the TCMS team and he is looking forward to working with Cox in the upcoming school year.
"I observed him in action with some challenging students last year and the results were very positive," Jewell said.
"He has a special ability to build a rapport with students that are making poor choices. Inevitably, those students are empowered to make more productive choices. I fully expect Mr. Cox to continue those successes at our school."