Alan Cox: a teacher with a ‘magnificent obsession’

Sella Robinett | The Ranger Alan Cox instructs one of his history classes on the Washington Street Campus on a Monday night.

Few people are fortunate enough to make a living doing something they truly love. At least one instructor at Amarillo College feels lucky to be one of the few.

When he was working on his degree in business administration at Texas Tech University, Cox chose history as an elective.

He remembers the adviser setting his courses so that if he ever wanted to be a teacher, he would have the requirements. As a college freshman, he said OK.

He said he remembers thinking, “I’m never going to be a teacher.”

Now, of course, he realizes that the adviser did him a huge favor.

Cox, a part-time history instructor, said he is happy to spend his Monday and Wednesday nights teaching about this hobby.

He hasn’t always been a teacher, but he always has had a love of history.

Jerry Moller, dean of arts and sciences, said the adjunct faculty at AC brings so much enthusiasm to their classrooms because they are teaching their hobbies – something they love. Moller described Cox as a gentleman who treats peoplewith respect and dignity.

He said Cox is a man of great stature, soft-spoken, has a great sense of humor and always has a little smile.

“It’s not just a hobby for him, it’s a magnificent obsession,” Moller said.

“I wish we were all as passionate about what we do as Alan Cox is. We love him and hope we have him for a long time.”

Cox’s passion for history is evident in his classroom.

Lynsey Glenn, a mechanical engineering major, was his student for History I and now is taking History II. She said the first time she took History I, with another instructor, she failed the class because it was boring.

Glenn said it’s completely different with Cox. His class is the only one she actually looks forward to. She said he makes it fun by sharing his personal experiences, not just reciting from a book.

“It makes it a lot more interesting when you can relate it to everyday life,” Glenn said.

She said Cox relates stories of what happened in history to how it affects us now. She said she enjoys the photos and videos of the battlefields he has visited.

The method of teaching that Cox uses, “affective” learning, appeals to the students’ emotions. Referring to the class as “you colonists” helps the students understand or feel what it might have been like.

Cox also uses an anecdotal story to help students relate. He says if he can hook a student with a cool story that they wouldn’t get in a textbook, it will pique their interest.

Cox grew up in rural Virginia in a military family. As a boy, he rode his bike with his buddies to the Yorktown Battlefield – the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.

He was surrounded by history and loved reading about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

He went to high school in the Philippines and has been to Pearl Harbor at least a couple of times but hopes to go again.

Each summer, he plans a trip to learn more about the places he teaches about.

“I love what I’m doing,” Cox said. “I have to work during the day, but when I go to Amarillo College, that’s fun.”

Even though he loves history, Cox always is looking to the future. He quoted Robert E Lee:
“The education of a man is never completed until he dies.”

“Every day I want to be learning and experiencing new and different things,” Cox said.

His advice: “You are always going to be presented with obstacles; you can make excuses. If you let obstacles and challenges rule your life, you will be disappointed. Overcoming the obstacle is when it gets interesting.”

 

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