New Halls Elementary School principal Mitchell “Mitch” Cox is well aware that he’s walking into a legacy at one of the best schools in Knox County, and he’s confident he’s up to the challenge.
Between Nancy Maland and Dr. Chris Henderson, Halls Elementary had only two principals in 20 years. Cox makes three, and he’s hoping to carry on the school’s tradition of excellence.
“It shows that people enjoy being here,” he said. “All you hear about is what a great school Halls is.”
Cox hails from Kingsport, Tennessee, and a family of high achievers. Of his brothers, one is a minister, another worked on the “Avatar” film with James Cameron, and another is in military counter-intelligence. Cox attended East Tennessee State University and went on to teach AP U.S. history and honors world history at Sullivan North High School, where he also coached basketball. Next was a position as history teacher at a STEM school called Innovation Academy. He was assistant principal at Sullivan Central High School, then principal at Indian Springs Elementary School.
It was at Indian Springs that he discovered his love of teaching younger kids.
“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “I felt like I found my niche. It was the love of school and the energy of the younger students. For me, it is truly the impact you get to have on somebody’s life. We get to see it over five or six years. We get to see them grow and know we played an important part in that.
“It’s about the kid. If we always keep the kid at the center, good things happen wherever you go.”
Cox is excited to be part of Knox County Schools.
“I just never met as many genuine and caring people,” he said. “And who wouldn’t want to work for (Director of Elementary Education) Julie Thompson? I want to thank Halls and the Knox County school system for giving me the opportunity, for letting someone come in from outside the school system and putting their trust in me.”
This year, Cox is looking to expand a program that was put in place at Halls Elementary last year, the Ron Clark house system. Readers of Harry Potter will recognize this. Students are divided into houses, and students can win points for their houses by upholding “seven habits that we want our students to identify with,” said Cox.
Those habits are caring, character, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, responsibility and citizenship.
“We’re going to try to focus on those,” said Cox. “It’s making school exciting and fun for them, showing them that learning can be fun.
“I’m just planning on working hard and being a servant to whoever’s in the building.”