Episode #107: Engaging Learners in the Online Environment with Dr. Cynthia Sistek-Chandler

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

Dr. Cynthia Sistek-Chandler, a staff developer, trainer, and professor of educational technology works with school sites and with cadres of learners at National University and at the San Diego County Office of Education. Since 1998, Cynthia has primarily taught online, EdTech courses that are required for the California Clear Credential, and is Program Director for Masters of Science in Advanced Teaching Practices.
What was it like for you as a student?
During my early elementary experience at Maple Leaf Elementary in Garfield Heights. Ohio, my k through third-grade teachers created a warm and caring environment for me. I was a majorette in the Twirling Sweethearts, a brownie, and at our talent show, I twirled a circular fire hoop! Believe it or not, I was also a budding accordion player, I ask you, who plays accordion nowadays? I did back then. As a granddaughter of a musician who was a music store owner and an inventor, music, and entertainment was in my DNA. Polka music, being Polish, eating ethnic food, and dancing was my life.
Then, when I was in 4th grade my parents divorced, and my life as I knew it crumbled. I had a new step-father and entered into a transient way of life. We moved 4 times in the next 4 years. City to city, to Arizona and back, then mid-year in 9th grade, I left Ohio. Overall, my experience as a learner was impacted by transience and trauma. My mom was a bartender and a waitress. Being a daughter of a divorced, single mother with her detained occupation, my interactions with others were sometimes wrought with prejudice and indifference. Regardless, the school was my family and I was always a great student and was deeply connected with all of my teachers. 
Your journey as a teacher
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. My younger sister was my first student. We are three years apart. I taught her everything I learned beginning in kindergarten. Each day, I came home from school and taught her everything I learned in school. By the time my sister entered kindergarten she knew how to add, write, and read. She was smarter than me and excelled in her school career.
Fast forward, I pursued my passion to become a teacher and persisted in college as an adult for 9 years. Even though it took me 9 years to obtain my Bachelors’s degree, and another 2 years for my Masters and credential, I was and am, and always have been a teacher. 
As a graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I taught first grade. It was my dream job and finally a reality as a classroom teacher. It was the mid-1980’s and computers in the classroom or COWS, (computers on wheels), were just becoming commonplace in the classroom. My kiddos were in awe when they saw their writing roll off the Imagewriter printer. I saw the promise of EdTech as a catalyst and motivator for these youngsters. Programs like the Children’s Writing and Publishing Center and Print Shop came alive for students and for my parent volunteers. Hypercard, Hyperstudio, and Laserdiscs were on the scene and educational software became a catalyst for learning. 
CUE Changed My Life

As a beginning teacher in1988, I attended my first CUE (Computer Using Educators now CUE) conference and became infatuated with educational software as a powerful tool for learning. Fast forward, after 5 years of teaching, in 1990, I took a hiatus from teaching to explore my passion for ED Tech. I worked in the educational software industry to assist educators in integrating software applications into the curriculum. As a sales manager I interfaced with hundreds of school districts and gave numerous demonstrations using an LCD projector With a master’s in the curriculum, I wrote teacher’s guides to support the integration of computer-based learning in the classroom. In 1993, I started teaching teachers and it became clear to me that technology was a powerful tool and not just a thing to master…