ZEPHYR — If circumstances had worked out differently, Jennifer Cozart would likely have gone into the Air Force and become an aerodynamic engineer.
That path wasn’t possible.
It’s sometimes said, if one door closes, another one opens.
That’s what happened for Cozart, who is in her 20th year as a math teacher including seven at Zephyr, where she teaches algebra, geometry and pre-calculus. Cozart also teaches a STAAR prep class for sixth and seventh-graders.
“I love what I do,” Cozart said. “I love that I get paid to do math.”
While Cozart relishes solving math problems, she knows not everyone has a knack for math. She tries to encourage her students who struggle and instill confidence.
“I try to have a lot of understanding because it is not the easiest thing for everyone to learn,” Cozart said. “Math gets a bad rap. It’s very misunderstood.
“Some of us don’t naturally (grasp) mathematical thinking. Some of us have to learn how to think that way because it doesn’t come naturally to us. Just like people who are very eloquent, others have to learn how to be that way. It’s a skill.”
Cozart said she uses a variety of methods to help her students grasp math. “I try to get them to be self-sufficient where they’re using their notes or they’re using their vocabulary so that they can try to figure it out,” Cozart said. “And I tell them look for this or look for different things, to kind of help them get started.
“I see so many students who just lack confidence. The best thing I can do is try to encourage my students. Most of the time, they know what to do. It’s just one little side step the wrong way.”
Cozart, a Howard Payne University graduate, said she is from “kind of all over. My parents are from Coleman. My dad was in the military and they split up whenever I was in elementary school. My mother, as a single parent, kind of floated around with jobs. We lived in Coleman, and Bangs, and Brownwood and Goldthwaite. Basically this area is where I’m from.”
Although Cozart ended up graduating from Odessa Permian High School, she considers Brownwood High to be her home school.
“That’s where my fondest memories are,” Cozart said. “I ran track under Coach Judy Kennedy — fantastic person. I had Latin class with Athena Bean.”
After high school, Cozart’s first choice was to become an aerodynamic engineer in the Air Force. Cozart was married and had a child, and the Air Force, at that time, would not accept her because she had a child.
“And at that point I had to kind of figure out what I wanted to do,” Cozart said. “I had so many teachers in my life that made a difference for me, that I decided that was where I wanted to go.
“My husband at the time wanted to be a youth minister so we came back to Brownwood to attend Howard Payne. I think that’s where I made the decision to become a math teacher. I had wonderful people in my life who, as teachers, made the difference.”
Cozart taught her first year in San Angelo, then taught in Santa Anna for 12 years before coming to Zephyr.
“I wouldn’t trade teaching at a small school for anything in the world,” Cozart said. “It’s the greatest place to be. You get to know your kids and you get to know your faculty and you have more support. I love the people that I teach with here. They’re great and we have a good administration. I look forward to coming to school.”
Cozart is now remarried to Michael Cozart, and she has two sons and two daughters. “I did a boy and a girl, a boy and a girl. A lot of times I think these patterns happen because I’m a math teacher,” Cozart said.
Even though teaching wasn’t Cozart’s first choice, “I still love what I do,” Cozart said. “I get to share my love with other people. They don’t always understand my love for math but I get to share that with others and that’s the greatest thing in the world.”
Zephyr school Superintendent Stanton Marwitz said Cozart brings another skill to school.
“She’s a pretty good cook,” Marwitz said. “She cooked for the volleyball girls the other day. She made homemade bread. She put cheese, meat and bell peppers in it and then rolled it all up and cooked it.
“She also makes her own salsa so she’ll bring it up here during staff days. She makes her jalapeno cheese bread and things like that. She calls herself the mathematician cook and she’s really a pretty good cook. She’s actually a great cook. We always look forward to the staff meetings because when she cooks she’s good. And she’s always willing to help with anything … hard, hard worker.”