Celebrate Employee Learning Week With MaryBeth Cordon

This post is the second in a series highlighting the Round Rock ISD team members who were most recognized by their peers as the people from whom they learn the most. We are showcasing these individuals each day during ATD Employee Learning Week, Dec. 5th-8th. Visit www.pd.roundrockisd.org to view all 300 recognitions.

“I hope everyone in Round Rock ISD has the opportunity to work with a team like I do,” says Round Rock ISD Elementary Instructional Coach MaryBeth Cordon of her fellow instructional coaches. “We are always there for each other and everyone builds on each other’s specialties.”

Cordon, one of the most recognized RRISD staff members during ATD Employee Learning Week, spent the majority of our interview praising those whom she has learned from throughout her career. She credits current Wells Branch principal Belinda Cini with pushing her as a teacher and giving her the notion and confidence that she could coach others. “During our knee-to-knee dialogues after an observation she would guide me to new learning and reflection through questioning.”

Cordon’s legacy though lies with the impact she has on those around her.

“When I was a new coach, we met with Carla (Amacher) on my first day,” fellow elementary instructional coach Ann Barlow tells us, “Carla gave us our PD schedule for the next week. I was assigned to teach 6 sessions about the new digital textbook, Envision, with MaryBeth at 6 different campuses in a 3 day time period. MaryBeth told me to take in oxygen. Since that time I have stopped to take in oxygen many times and told many new coaches that is was good advice.”

It’s staggering to think the number of students who have benefited through Cordon’s work in her 46 years serving teachers and students. After graduating from Iowa State she taught two years for the Department of Defense in Germany before coming back to the states to teach first grade in Ladonia, Alabama. “I had 36 first graders in my class and made $385 a week,” Cordon remembers of her time in the late 1960 and early 70s in Alabama.

The Cordon’s moved to Round Rock in the late 1970s and she has been with Round Rock ISD ever since. Prior to becoming a district coach 9 years ago she taught Kindergarten and first grades at Voigt and Wells Branch Elementaries. She has served as a coach at Gattis Elementary the last three school years, but has coached at Forest Creek, Voigt, Robertson, Jollyville, Berkman, and Laurel Mountain as well.

Cordon also credits Dr. Lora Darden, Executive Director of Elementary Teaching & Learning, for helping make her a successful coach. “You can’t be around Lora for more than a half and hour without learning something,” she tells us.

When asked about her experience working with Cordon, Darden replied, “She is unabashedly BRAVE! As she transitioned from being a Kindergarten teacher extraordinaire (for 25+ years) to an instructional coach, she was asked to facilitate a vertical math team comprised of 5th and 6th grade math teachers. Considering no task too big, and every task worthy of her “A game”, she prepped alongside one of our expert math coaches, studied up, and met with the math teachers with great success! People in that group still talk about the power of what they learned about vertical alignment.”

We asked long-time friend and colleague Jan Nutt to share her thoughts regarding how Cordon makes her and others better and she shared the following quote from Christopher Robin:

“I don’t know how she does it, but she makes us feel braver than we are, stronger than we seem and smarter than we think,” Nutt tells us.

“Don’t ever expect to have the filing cabinet drawer with all of your lessons in it,” is the advice Cordon would give herself as a 21-year-old first year teacher. “It will never happen. Every year is going to be different.” She credits her work with the Literacy Learning Network while at Wells Branch as the first time she really started looking at authentic reading and writing instruction. “Instead of taking the lesson out of the filing cabinet, we started taking the lesson out of what happened at the table with the kids.”

Cordon often tells new teachers that if they think of themselves as that teacher with the filing cabinet, then they will burn out because they will never fill it. But, if they think of themselves as professionals who embrace the learning and the change that happens each year then they will be successful.

Gattis Elementary Principal, Jennifer Lucas and Cordon.

Reading plays a major role in many coach’s lives and Cordon is no different. “I reach way back in my memory of a book that impressed me early in my career. I should mentioned my personal education (as mixed as it was) came from parochial schools. Lots of desks and rows but great teaching. Then in 1967 I picked up Albert Cullen’s Push Back the Desks. I wasn’t an education major (we didn’t have that in the 60s at Iowa State) but reading his view of how learning could be — moved me to pursue a later degree in education. Cullen believed learning and play had a place in the classroom.”

Cordon’s legacy continues to grow every day and she has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. She’s on Google+ and Twitter so reach out, thank her for her service, and remember to embrace the learning and change that greets us each and every day.

Please join us in honoring the work of MaryBeth Cordon during ATD Employee Learning Week 2016 by leaving your comments below.