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DPSCD Teacher Brings Attributes Learned During Military Service into being an Educator

MAJ. Cordell Gibson is a Master Teacher at Detroit Public Schools Community District’s (DPSCD) Sampson-Webber Academy. He is also a military veteran. A DPSCD alum who graduated from King High School, Cordell served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years. He has also taught at multiple DPSCD high schools and middle schools during his more than 15-year teaching career.  

Cordell recognizes how important technology is in today’s world. That’s why he decided to pursue a degree in Educational Technology so he can teach DPSCD students and staff to be comfortable with using technology and seamlessly blend it into their teaching practices. As the District honors all veterans for their service to our country, community, and family, we asked Cordell to reflect on his time in the military and how it has shaped him into being the person and teacher he is today.  

Q: Please tell us about your time in the service, what branch, what you did and where you served? 

I originally entered the U.S. Army straight out of high school as an enlisted mechanic. I served 2 1/2 years on active duty at Fort Hood in Texas. I then joined the Michigan Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army reserves. I eventually decided to be commissioned as an officer in the Michigan Army National Guard. In 2003, I did a tour in Iraq. I also did a tour in Afghanistan. In addition, I prepared soldiers for eventual deployment at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. I also did a tour in Cuba and in Liberia.  

 Q: How did being in the U.S. military impact you?  

The thing I remember and cherish the most about being in the U.S. Army is meeting people from all over our country, even in places around the world. My tours made me appreciate being born and raised in the United States. Originally, I went into the military because I was not as disciplined as I wanted to be and because I was a skinny kid. The military helped me gain that discipline and I put on some weight. To this day, I have used the discipline that I gained through the army to be a productive member of society and prepare to be a teacher. 

Q: As a veteran, what does Veterans Day mean for you? 

When I think of Veterans Day, I think of all the friends, wonderful experiences, and places that I've had in the military. It's really something to cherish. I love interacting with diverse cultures just to see the differences. It's interesting to me just to see how people do things in Georgia or California versus Michigan; to see how Liberians, Afghans, Iraqis, and Kuwaitis do things. 

 Q: How did being in the service prepare you to go into teaching?  

The most important attributes that the military helped me to gain to be successful in teaching are preparation and discipline. It's as simple as preparing lesson plans every week, so that when you're in front of students, you know exactly what you want to teach them and how you want to teach it. The few times that I did not prepare were noticeable. The military also taught me to be flexible and prepare on the fly if necessary. As a master teacher, I do my best to pass along information to the teachers that I serve in a timely manner so they can maximize their time to prepare.  

 Q: During your time as a teacher, have students come to you for advice on whether to enlist or not? What have you told them?  

I have talked to students about joining the military. I always tell them why I went into the military and the benefits of being in it. I will tell them about the discipline that I got. I always tell them that the military is much more than fighting. It’s a whole community. You have people in finance. You have mechanics, welders, cyber security personnel, cooks, and anything else the soldiers need to survive, strive, and be successful.