Vol 57 No. 14 : July 14, 2005
Vol 57 No. 14 | July 14, 2005
Lasting Impression? Cox Sure Made One on These Students
Teacher Education's Carole Cox earned a special salute in Wisconsin July 1-4 when her former third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students from Shorewood Hills Elementary School organized a special reunion to recognize the impact she had on their lives.
"For some of us, it's about celebrating Dr. Carole Cox and what happened in her classrooms in the late 1960s and early 1970s," said David Medaris, a Wisconsin resident and one of Cox's former students. "There was a special set of circumstances that produced an almost combustible mix of potential and kinetic intellectual energy among and between Mrs. Cox and her students."
One of the ideas Cox brought with her to Shorewood Hills Elementary from earning her bachelor's at UCLA in 1965 was the notion – then experimental at the least – that grades three and four could be paired in one classroom to her students' benefit and that those students could then advance with her to grades four and five.
"This was the milieu in which we learned. My memory is that it induced a powerful esprit de corps," recalled Medaris, now a staff writer at Isthmus, a Madison, Wis., alternative newsweekly. Many of his classmates were the daughters and sons of academics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison or of parents who were linked to the campus or who worked in municipal, county, state and federal government offices.
While teaching at Shorewood Hills in 1967, Cox founded a Shakespeare for Children program that endured for many years.
"Carole had us performing Shakespeare, using the Bard's language, ever so slightly abridged," Medaris said. "Imagine how the experience of memorizing, comprehending and reciting long passages from Shakespeare imprints itself on an impressionable 8- or 9- or 10-year-old's DNA – how being onstage, or behind the curtain when one of your classmates exclaims, ‘Lay on, Mac duff, and damn'd be he who first cries hold, enough!' drives home the rhythm and nuance of iambic pentameter. It was brilliant."
The enthusiasm of her former students at seeing Cox again was a pleasant surprise to reunion organizers. "When my co-conspirators and I hatched the idea for the reunion, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would come within a handful of classmates for full attendance at roll call," Medaris said. One of the things this response may say about those days at Shorewood Hills is the difference Cox made.
"Speaking for myself, it says she had an incalculable impact on my life," said Medaris, who credits her early influence for steering him toward writing as a career. "She had a fundamental influence on our lives at a key juncture along the trail. I think she reached us as people, respected us as individuals and distinguished herself as an educator right from the start of her career."
At CSULB, Cox has distinguished herself as an expert in language and reading in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. She teaches field-based language arts methods courses for pre-service teachers in which she and her students work directly with children and teachers in local elementary school classrooms. She has authored or co-authored six books, more than 70 book chapters and articles and made more than 100 presentations at the regional, state, national and international levels. In January, her textbook, Teaching Language Arts: A Student- and Response-centered Classroom, reached its fifth edition since it was first published by Allan and Bacon in 1987. It is the second best-selling text on its subject and is used in 90 colleges and universities in 35 states as of 2003. She was named one of CSULB's outstanding professors in 2001.
Cox has a son Wyatt, an English teacher in China, a son Gordon, at UCLA, and a daughter Elizabeth who attended Long Beach Poly High School. She earned a bachelor's degree from UCLA in 1965 and a master's degree in 1973 and a Ph.D. in 1975, both from the University of Minnesota. She taught language arts at Louisiana State University from 1975-87 and joined CSULB in 1988.
Medaris shied away from anything as lofty as a goal for the reunion but if there had to be one, it might be the idea of a celebration. "There is the premise of convening to celebrate our teacher, her classroom and her enduring influence on so many of us. I suppose this also might be an opportunity to assess or define what it is that is bringing us together all these years later.
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