Teacher Spotlight: Undra Cox-Varnado of Woodley Elementary

Ms. Undra Cox-Varnado is one of my daughter’s first grade teachers at Woodley Elementary School in Hattiesburg. Cox-Varnado, who teaches English Language Arts, is now in her twentieth year at Woodley. In all my interactions with her, she has immediately put me at ease with her smile and friendly demeanor. While I have not had the pleasure of seeing her teach in-person, I have a sense that she loves her students and has great time doing what she loves!

To reach her goal of becoming a teacher, Cox-Varnado got her associate degree from Jones County Junior College before going on to William Carey University where she earned her Bachelor of Education in 2004. When asked what motivated her to become a teacher, Cox-Varnado stated, “My mother inspired me to become a teacher. It was a dream she had for herself and her children.

Cox-Varnado discussed how the best part of teaching was seeing a troubled student “become the most respectful person.” On the other hand, she said that the worst part about teaching is politics and paperwork.

In terms of accomplishments, Cox-Varnado has been recognized on numerous occasions by the Hattiesburg Public School District for her class’s achievement scores.

To keep things interesting and “fresh” for her students, Cox-Varnado will sing and dance with her students as they are watching videos. She will then apply these songs and dances into lessons and assessments.

Cox-Varnado also offered some good advice for those who may be considering teaching as a career.

“Make sure that this is what you really want to do,” she said. “As with any profession, if you’re not willing to give 150 percent all day every day, you can’t have high expectations.”

At the end of the interview, just for fun, I asked Cox-Varnado what her spirit animals is and why. She had an amazing answer.

“Personally, my spirit animal would be an ant. Ants are tiny but have many jobs as little soldiers,” Cox-Varnado said. “They must stay focused on the task at hand, always in formation and ready to go, and never leaving a fellow soldier behind. I consider myself very dependable because my coworkers consider me a ‘go to’ person. My main focus is my students, and I try to make myself available at all times and make sure that they get the best of me each and every day. They depend on me and oftentimes, I depend on them. I am also very protective of them because they are my babies. As a mother myself, my motherly instincts often kick in, and I’m doing everything to make sure that they have what they need while giving lots of love along the way. “


Written by Tamra Cater

I am married, and I also have a 4-year-old daughter. I earned my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi, and I have been teaching psychology classes over the past 10 years. As a professor and as a parent, I grew to love learning anything about child development. I recently turned that into a passion for helping other parents by starting my own blog at


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