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Michelle Cordy: When teachers connect, they change the world

By Team ISTE
June 30, 2016
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The hero who inspired Michelle Cordy to help her third grade students take chances and make mistakes was not a popular edublogger or personal mentor. It was none other than Ms. Frizzle of  “The Magic School Bus” fame. After all, the animated character is always ready to get messy and go exploring.

On Sept. 10, 2012, Cordy got her license to drive her own magic bus: a 1:1 program with iPads for students. The technology gave her the opportunity to guide her students to experiences that would take them beyond the walls of the classroom and help them discover who they are and where they fit.

But figuring out where to go from there became a bigger challenge than she had anticipated.

The journey led Cordy to the closing keynote stage at ISTE 2016, where she provided the perfect encouragement for classroom teachers and administrators who would soon return home to apply the knowledge they had gained over the course of the conference.


As the lone teacher with a technology classroom in her Ontario elementary school, Cordy originally turned to ISTE’s Professional Learning Network to seek out mentors. Then she started blogging at Microsoft’s Hack the Classroom. Next, she strapped GoPro cameras to her students to document their efforts to build a bridge to drive Spheros across. She even let them change their goal in the middle of the project because, hey, it’s what Ms. Frizzle would do!

Through the course of it all, Cordy learned and lived the power of being a connected educator.

“We hear it all the time. It’s not about how many Twitter followers you have,” Cordy said. “It’s about whether or not you feel seen and whether or not you truly see other people.”

Because a network became her safety net, she now advocates for inclusion and connection among colleagues and beyond.

“If we do take care of each other, then all we need to do is focus on the good work,” she said. “Show up to the place where you can make the greatest contribution, do your good work and everyone will catch your ideas.”

She dubs this “passing ideas contagiously,” and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Cordy admitted even Ms. Frizzle could be more of a steward, which is what this real-life elementary teacher sees as her ultimate role.

“Because schools aren’t broken, and we are not here to fix them, I don’t think we need to break them down and rebuild them,” she said. “Schools and districts are ecosystems, and ecosystems don’t break. But we do need to take care of them.”

In the end, all the pieces are in place for education to work well. But these pieces need to be assembled in a different way if we want it to work better.

The bottom line? “The students need you, and they need you to refuse to leave, refuse to give up.” 

Watch highlights from Cordy's inspiring keynote:

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