Leigh Cassell is a tech coach at the Avon-Maitland District School Board, the creator of the Digital Human Library, a co-visionary on A Kid’s Guide to Canada, the catalyst behind a new Twitter chat for Ontario students and one of the newest members of the #ONedmentorsteam.  Although she noted this later in her Personal Playlist Podcast, all of the ways that Leigh is contributing to education in Ontario, Canada and the world is about building relationships. “It’s really about how open minded you are to the potential that will determine the kinds of relationships you are able to develop, not necessarily being in the same space.” Leigh builds relationships through her innovating and creative thinking because she is always making connections.

One can easily tie responsiveness into the innovation equation. If one sees big picture ideas and can respond to them in creative ways, they can really make a difference. That is Leigh Cassell’s style and one of the reasons why she created the Digital Human Library.  “If I can connect my kids with other kids, what’s stopping me from connecting them with all of the different people who do all of these amazing jobs and all of this amazing work in the real world, which is exactly what I’m teaching in my classroom.” Her catalyst may have been from being in a more rural setting, but her thinking came from backwards designing the goal of authentic learning. “This was my attempt for kids to supplement experiences they weren’t getting at city schools,” said Cassell. Creating a place for experts to interact with learners pushes learning beyond the classroom and makes it borderless.  She is linking curriculum and what is actually happening with it.

Leigh asserts that we can, “use technology today not only to connect…relationships can be built regardless of where you live in the world…and accomplish great things…” Leigh pointed out that we both came across A Kids Guide to Canada through Rola Tibshirani, which is an exceptional way to unite our students in celebrating Canada’s 150 and working together as a nation to build our tomorrow. As a connected educator, Rola introduced Leigh to Cathy Beach who had, “an incredible idea to connect kids across the country and engage them in creating and discussing what it means to be Canadian.” After reaching out, Cathy and Leigh met first on line and then in person, to collaborate on A Kids Guide to Canada who now have “a national committee with incredible teachers who are “so passionate and committed to ensuring the success of this project.”

Leigh and a team of educators are launching @ONedSsChat in October, which is a way to give students voice and a safe way to develop a positive digital footprint through a variety of Twitter chats. When she began this with some colleagues to create an AMDSB chat on Twiiter, she says that, “We wanted to create time and space for students in our district, K-8, to talk about issues, problems they were having, topics relating to social justice, character and citizenship and bring everyone together.” She invited some teachers leaders to open up a Twitter chat for Ontario students. “We have four different chats that we are offering, a variety of entry points…The whole point is to bring student voice to the forefront, engage kids in conversations that are meaningful to them about things that matter, about things that are going on in the world.” We plan to have Leigh and some other people on this team,  such Allison Fuisz, lead #ONedchat an October chat about this new hashtag and important opportunity to amplify student voice.

Eventually, we got around to Leigh’s playlist. Like many guests, Leigh quickly determined her song choices and then second-guessed her selection. She worried that she hadn’t put enough time into it, so she “…went into my iTunes library and I started listening to all this music. It’s interesting to me that I landed back on the same three songs that first came to mind.” That is why this task requires some critical thought and reflection.

Leigh chose her nostalgic song because it is her mother’s favourite song. “This was a song I heard in the house, in the car, at grandma’s. This song was on all the time, and this song was really a huge motivator for my mom, and it reminds me of her.” Leigh went on to honour her mother noting that she, “has danced through her whole life. She handles the most complicated and challenging situations with grace, but can command the attention of a room, but has this confidence and calmness about her at the same time…The way that she lives her life and the relationships she has and the way that she treats people…, it’s almost like a dance.” It was a beautiful introduction to the song from the movie Flashdance. Here is What A Feeling by Irene Cara:

Her identity song is one that she came across recently. Since Leigh is always “exploring the new…new territory,,,new relationships..,” choosing a newer song felt right because, she is always  searching for something new.  She quotes several lyrics form her identity song of choice to describe the excitement of newness. “The more experiences we have, the less we feel that excitement.” Leigh kept referring to the feeling that we are compelled to keep searching for, like what we had when we were kids and always discovering new things. “Every now and again, I find that feeling, and I have discovered that it’s when I connect with someone new, and the relationship that evolves is unexpected.” She described seeing that in your children and noted how profound an effect these experiences can have on you.  Here is the deep and hypnotic Waves by Dean Lewis:

Leigh described her final song choice as a pick-me-up. “…it doesn’t matter what brings me down or what my stress is at that particular time,  this song always just lifts me up and picks me up. This song was very important to me at a difficult time in my life.” As a huge Dave Matthew’s fan, she gets a lot from the energy of the music and the lyrics. “Event though this was song that reminds me of that really difficult time in my life, it also reminds me that I came out of that time on top. I got through it, and it made me a stronger person.” Here is The Best of What’s Around by The Dave Matthews Band:

As Dave said and Leigh phrased, “Turns out it’s not where you are but who you’re with that really matters,” and this was a relationship building conversation for us. We explored what was missing from her playlist and had some fun throwing back some Beastie Boys. She also referred to a Treble Charger song called Ever She Flows is one of her favourite songs. “It’s a song about second chances. It’s a song about blowing it and picking yourself up and going at it again.” As a growth-minded person, Leigh is always picking herself back up and failing forward, which she shared as not always something that is out there about her. It is a wonderful thing to model as a teacher and parent. In terms of the songs, she is, “…very connected to songs lyrically,” so I had to use one of the song lyrics in the title of this post as it sums up what I have learned about her. Leigh Cassell is a person who clearly takes her passion and makes it happen…again and again.