Spotlight: long-time Woodrow teacher doubles as head pastor

submitted photo
submitted photo

Teaching can be a physically and emotionally trying profession. Woodrow Wilson High School is fortunate to have a variety of teachers who give back to the community through their teaching, but one teacher pours back into lives and communities in a different and unique way.

Demetri Cotton, who has been teaching at Woodrow for 28 years, is the longest tenured teacher at Woodrow. On top of his continued work as an Art teacher at Woodrow, he has been the head pastor at Goodwill Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove for the past 14 years.

Cotton, the child of two former math teachers in Fort Worth, discovered Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) while driving around on his off period in his first year teaching at Woodrow in 1986, and began to give it some thought as he perused the seminary bookstore. Soon after, he pursued his Master of Theology degree while teaching at Woodrow and serving as a Deacon at his church.

When Goodwill Baptist Church on Jim Miller road was between pastors, Cotton applied to be the head pastor, but was not chosen. Cotton faithfully continued to do what he did best — teach. After teaching adults at the church for several years, he eventually was chosen as the head pastor after the third preacher vacancy in a few years, and he has been in that role ever since. The church has been in existence for 82 years, and does the best it can to serve the great needs of the community in Pleasant Grove.

Cotton is a gifted teacher and speaker, and enjoys “having the ability to break down theological concepts so that masses can understand and have the ability to make it relevant to their life.” He also enjoys strategically planning what is best for the church and the community. “I like coming up with the big ideas, and fortunately, I have members at my church who are great at working out the details, and seeing them through. It is a great joy, to see a plan come off, and the church and the community benefit from it.”

Leading a church also has its challenges, but Cotton handles them with grace and humility. The parallels to work in the classroom are not lost on Cotton. “The most difficult part of pastoring is learning to develop a thick skin. No matter how good your intentions are, someone will have a different view, or interpretation of what you should do. Unlike the workplace where people are paid, leading a force of people who for the most part are volunteering their time and services, requires a lot of effort. You have to be more patient and understanding.”

For Cotton, both teaching and preaching seem to be a natural fit. He feels that the Woodrow students are “reachable, and personable, which creates a great opportunity for us as teachers to mold, influence and impact.” While most teachers can barely find the time to keep up with their heavy work load, Cotton seems to juggle two full time jobs with class and ease. The average teacher does not spend their precious free time baptizing, marrying, and burring their friends, but Cotton feels like he is “a part of their family sharing and facilitating these special life events. It is a special and humbling experience.”

Woodrow is fortunate to have teachers like Cotton who are dedicated to the school and the greater Dallas community, and certainly benefits from the diverse abilities and experiences of the teachers there. “There is one great similarity between teaching and pastoring,” Cotton says, “and that is that in both professions, you are trying to get people to do things that will ultimately impact their life for the better.”

*Editor’s note: This article was written by Woodrow Wilson teacher Will Maddox, who occasionally writes stories about Woodrow students, staff, programs and other news.

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