MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) — The superintendent portraits that line the wall of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center boardroom paint a picture more than a century old.

Photos of eleven superintendents – all of them men – until now.

“You don’t really realize how important it can be for future generations or for my own daughter or looking around at my nieces to know that this is something truly special,” said Shannon Cox, the current superintendent of the Montgomery County ESC.

Overseeing 70,000 students across the county, Shannon Cox is the twelfth superintendent but the first woman to serve in the role.

Since she accepted the position in 2019, the Miami Valley has faced tornadoes, a mass shooting, and a pandemic.

“Our job is to prepare students for a future of jobs and careers that possibly haven’t even been created yet. And so knowing that we have to kind of dig down to the root– allow them to be happy, healthy individuals with a lot of tragedy that’s happened in our community– and prepare them for a world that’s so uncertain pre pandemic, that’s a huge challenge,” said Cox.

But Shannon is a woman who faces challenges head on.

As the opioid epidemic took hold of the Miami Valley– she co-founded a drug free coalition in her own community.

“To be really clear, we were tired of going to funerals. We were tired of baking lasagnas for funeral dinners. I had friends that had lost their children and as an educator, we knew we had to do a better job of educating the community about the stigma of drug addiction.”

The work never stops– Shannon serves on numerous boards but she’s also a wife, a mother and a grandmother. She was also recently inducted into the Valley View Hall of Fame.

When I asked how she balances it all– she says balance is the wrong word. She believes it’s most important to be present.

“There are going to be times that you’re going to need all of your attention and focus on home and the things that are happening at home. And there are going to be times that you’re going to need to focus and be 100% present at work. You transition in and out of those. The key is can you do it seamlessly?”

When it’s time to do something for herself, Shannon makes it a goal to try new things.

In this season of her life– that’s CrossFit, leaving friends to wonder when she sleeps.

“She never half bakes anything. Everything is done 100%,” said Michele Hodson, an Intervention Specialist at Valley View High School and a friend to Shannon for 25 years.

“She is as kind to the people that work for her as she is to her own family as she is to those she meets in the community,” said Hodson.

When I asked Shannon what she would tell future generations of women, she said “First and foremost– know who you are and be true to yourself.”

She went on to say, “We all are given some sort of privilege in this world and so I just ask the young women around me and adults, children alike to recognize that privilege and then spend it. Make sure you’re spending it on someone else or something else. Because that’s what this world really needs.”

For the rest of the Remarkable Women of Dayton, click here.