Cosmetology teacher Christina Cox said she could hear her students throughout the building jumping and screaming with joy when she won Teacher of the Year for the Academy of Technology and Academics (ATA).
“It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the sweetest things that has ever happened to me,” Cox said.
Hailing from the Buck Creek area just over the border in North Carolina, Cox is in her seventh year teaching at ATA, and has owned her own hair salon for 30 years. She teaches 11th and 12th grade cosmetology.
She went to Avant Garde School of Cosmetology, and about ten years ago she decided she wanted to teach.
“Teaching was always in my background,” Cox said. “My grandfather was a vocational teacher in the area and taught welding in Horry County Schools. My family is very hands-on with vocational-type stuff.”
After her three children were nearly grown, she got a job with HCS. Her daughter even went through the cosmetology program at the ATA as well.
“I made sure she was never in my class – I wanted to make sure everything was good and fair,” Cox said.
She raved about working at the ATA.
“I love it. It’s the greatest staff in the world to work with. Honestly a calling from God … it’s a calling for me. I treat all these kids like they are mine,” Cox said.
She said when she was announced as the winner, the seniors in her class at the time gave her a standing ovation.
“I honestly wanted to cry,” she said.
The best part of her situation, she said, is that she can invite her students to her salon for real world experience.
“I had a student come and work with me all day long. She could see what’s going on. I also have girls shadow me from Horry-Georgetown Technical College. I’m very transparent [about how real job situations work],” Cox said.
Like many teachers, she loves the moments when she sees the students finally “get it.”
She said she’s had a few students really “making a big difference” in the industry.
Jill McDowell, recently voted Best on the Beach for her hair talents, is a former student of hers and has a big following, Cox said.
She also bragged on recent graduate Maddie Neese, who won first place in the state at a competition in Columbia.
Out of five different competitions she entered her students in last year, they brought home four trophies.
“I am very proud of those [students],” Cox said.
Teaching such a hands-on skill during a pandemic has definitely been a learning experience.
“It has been difficult but anything that is a challenge makes you better I feel like,” Cox said. “I feel like it’s made me a better teacher, I’m having to think outside the box.”
While her students have been virtually learning, they have taken home mannequins to practice on, and they make videos of themselves working that are uploaded to Google Classroom.
It’s a view of their work they don’t often get, which ends up being a great way to critique techniques and learn how to improve by watching their own mistakes, she said.
Cox is married to her husband Tommy, who works for Horry Telephone Cooperative (HTC), and they have three children, Chase (30), Cole (26), and Callie (22), and a son-in-law, Colby.
“All [four] are blessings to me. I love people and I love my children…and I love Jesus,” Cox said.
Because so much of her career is spent indoors, when she has free time, she loves to be outside.
“When I do get the chance, I love to fish and hunt,” Cox said. “[I love to] plant flowers, I’m a horticulturist. My mother has a green thumb and has a nursery business over in Shalotte. I love gardening and the outdoors.”
The most important thing, she said, is that treats all of her students like her own kids.
“A four-year degree is important, but it’s also so important for today’s kids to be able to do a skill,” Cox said. “If you decide that four-year degree is not what you want to do. Allowing them to be able to learn a skill in high school, it’s very important.”