West Point High School’s Leah Cochran is a science teacher by trade, but she is also recognized as a local educator who is there for any of her students who may need a little extra support.
Cochran has been a teacher for 23 years, with a few stops at other schools around the state and in Georgia before spending the last 16 years at West Point High School.
In a submission letter sent to the Times, one of her students praised Cochran for going above and beyond for any student who needs help.
“She was always there and if you ever need anything you can go to her and she will do everything in her power to help you. She is the kindest and most understanding teacher I have ever had the pleasure to know,” the submission said.
To Cochran, being a teacher is more than just educating in the classroom, but it is about being there for her students in any way she is needed.
“To me, teaching is not a job, it’s a calling,” she said.
Some students may not have a stable home life or are having to work to support their families while also going to school, so being there for them and supporting them when they need her help is an important part of her job, she said.
“I feel like it’s my mission field, and I try to stand in the gap for these kids who may not have both parents at home or are maybe in a tough situation,” she said.
That calling also extends outside of the classroom.
Cochran said she has been a coach and sponsor of a few extracurricular activities over the years, but even if she isn’t at a game or event in an official capacity, she still shows her support for all of West Point’s students who are taking part.
“Most of them know, if it’s a ballgame, then Mrs. Cochran is going to be there,” The student said.
She said her two kids are three sport athletes, so she spends a lot of time at games or practices, and she tries to continue to build relationships with her students by being a reliable presence and source of support for them.
“Their parents may not be able to be at every basketball game, but I’m going to be there,” she said. “I’ll be your biggest fan, I’ll cheer you on while your parents are at work trying to feed you.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions it has caused with schools’ schedules and normal procedures, this school year has been more difficult for students, teachers and families, Cochran said.
She said she has felt like she needed to reach out to more students and even a few parents to make sure everyone was doing okay during the pandemic.
The school system was in a hybrid schedule for a large part of the year, which meant students were only at school two days out of the week and at home for the other five.
“That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but what are they doing during those five days?” Cochran said. “Are they at home by themselves, are their parents at work, are they responsible for siblings?
“That’s mentally tough on an adult, much less a teenager,” she said.
Cochran said she is not the only teacher who makes that extra effort, and all of the other West Point teachers work to be a source of support for any student who may need a little help — whether inside the classroom or out.
She said there aren’t any teachers who do their jobs just for the paycheck, and all of them go to work every day because they care for their students.
“I hope they know, if they don’t think anyone else cares about them, that we do,” she said.