Cordell: Anything but Ordinary

Ron+Cordell+poses+for+the+camera.+Cordell+has+always+been+an+extremely+bubbly+personality+and+has+carried+that+into+his+teaching.+

Photo by Amanda Klein

Ron Cordell poses for the camera. Cordell has always been an extremely bubbly personality and has carried that into his teaching.

Imagine a little boy jumping from city to city. Pasadena to Iowa; Iowa to Minnesota; Minnesota to Northern California, Redding, California. He’s the oldest of three boys, raised in a strictly traditional home. Raised by a father who is in “God’s Army,” a minister. 

Imagine Cordell Rock ‘n’ Roll posters plastering his walls. A style of teaching so different, calm, and rich in educational nutrients that it is almost impossible that such a class could actually be considered as school. A man who has preached the musical expression of the 80s and dresses in a way that reflects the image of his adventurous soul and altruistic personality. 

Imagine these being the same person. 

They are, yet it took an extensively long journey to get there. 

Ron Cordell was raised in a loving family and had moved around quite a bit in his first 18 years of life; his dad was a minister and it was common for him to move from one church to another. Although loving, his family was conventional and rather strict. Cordell quickly became aware of the binding rules his parents put forth on him. He always searched for ways to push these boundaries that he was contained to but knew never to break them, or was careful enough to make it appear as if he never did. 

At the age of 10, Cordell began to develop an overwhelming passion for the forbidden fruit of rock ‘n’ roll. He wanted to know more about the raging sounds and exotic language since the music was considered taboo in his family. His affection for the expressive melodies quickly grew.  It wasn’t until several years later that he brought his desires into full swing. 

“I didn’t really pick up the guitar probably until high school,” Cordell said as he held his very first red guitar in his hands that he bought at the age of 15. 

The members of Creedence Clearwater Revival pan the screen. This band is one of Ron Cordell’s favorites, and their concert holds a very special memory for him. (Photo Taken from Pitchfork)

The guitar now holds a worn-out neck and a sentimental feeling. It is coated with a sticker that carries much more meaning than its colorful design. The sticker was a backstage pass for a concert of the legendary band member John Fogerty who is a staple to the band Creedence ClearWater Revival. Cordell’s good friend was Fogerty’s bass player for a time which led Cordell to experience Fogerty’s art in full effect when he was in his 30s. 

“Music speaks where words fail.” Famously quoted by Christian Andersen. 

Cordell sees this quote as a motto for his musical persona. When Cordell was in high school he fell in love with two bands: The Babys and Rush. These bands have stuck with him through the ups and downs, and have helped him communicate his feelings; anytime he listens to them it is like exploring different parts of his past. It is a lyrical time machine. 

Cordell is not the only one at Sage Creek who has a connection with this time machine, special education teacher Lonnie Nash has bonded with Cordell over their rock ‘n’ roll fantasies. 

“[I] was at Mrs.Williams house, our athletic director and he had a Rush concert T-shirt on. -Their drummer and main songwriter passed away like last week, but I mean I saw the shirt and Rush is a band where either you love them or you don’t,” said Nash.

Neal Peart, drummer for The Rush plays in a concert. Peart was a role model to both Ron Cordell and Lonnie Nash.

Music did not just connect an audience to the performer, but one person to another. Nash expressed that Cordell and he have become so close that they share Apple Music playlists as their way of communication. They have also strengthened their bond as their idol Neal Peart passed away within the last month. He is our generation’s Kobe Bryant. He was someone to look up to, someone whose words were not just sung along to a melody but actually directed the course of a child’s future. 

“It’s an attitude,” Nash stated in reference to the meaning of music. 

After his high school adventures, Cordell further pursued his desires at Point Loma Nazarene University. Here, he figured out his future and found friends that would last a lifetime. Cordell originally wanted to achieve a business major before he realized that was not his true passion; the suit and tie, 9 to 5, was not foreseeable in his future. He traded it in for a year of exploration where he took a brief course on childhood education. Finally, he had found his path. 

Displayed is Bradley Cordell’s teaching page for Granite Bay High School. Bradley and Ron have like-minded interests, as they are both teachers. They both took creativity in different ways. Ron found his passion in music, and Bradley found his passion in the arts. (Photo Taken from Granite Bay High School)

Cordell shares his passion with his younger brother, Bradley Cordell who he has daily morning phone calls with before they both set out to make an impact on Generation Y. Bradley, like Ron, embraces a passion for history yet focuses on the artistic side with classes such as AP art history and ceramics. While Ron found his passion, he also found his forever friends. 

“We have a week every year where we get together in the middle of California in San Luis Obispo,” Ron said. 

Three out of six in the close-knit group live in San Diego and the other three live in Northern California, hence the middle of California meeting grounds. His friends have stuck with him through the dorm life, from sharing their very first apartment, first jobs, to getting married, to starting a family. 

Ron first taught at Carlsbad High School as an English teacher where he spent the majority of his teaching career. This is also where he met his loving wife who was an English teacher at the time as well. Together they have made a beautiful family with one daughter, a son-in-law, and two blossoming grandchildren. 

“I like to do art with the grandkids. Put out the tarp on the kitchen table, you know the paint, and make a huge mess!” Ron said with an overwhelmingly large smile. 

Ron then began a new chapter in his life when he decided to make the move to Sage Creek. He was a freshman English honors teacher and served as vice-principal, but decided to stay in a position of teaching because he felt that was more his speed. His first year he was accompanied by English 2 honors teacher, Corrie Myers. Myers was new to the district and felt that Cordell was a predominant figure in helping her transition. 

“He knows how to keep the main thing the main thing and he wasn’t going to stress about things…he was always my cheerleader.” Myers stated.

To this day Myers and Cordell carry on daily conversations during their 10 minute break. Cordell walks through her room and greets her with a smile and a chat as Myers hands him candy (a novel tradition). Cordell has not only made an impact on the staff, but on an overwhelming amount of students. 

Cordell, starting this year, has acquired a new teaching style and frankly, a new persona. In contrast to past years where Cordell has worn sport jackets and slacks on a daily basis, he is commonly cloaked in a grey fedora, long hair, two ear piercings, and a tranquil aura. 

“What you can see outwardly that’s changed. Now it began about two and a half years ago.” 

Ron decided to make the change in his outward appearance rather abruptly in reference to better his health. Through this he has decided to not only better himself on the inside but the outside. He believes that what he looks like on the outside is truly a reflection of his thoughts and beliefs on the inside. 

“I think that’s his true self. I think he’s like a hippie at heart. He goes camping on the weekends. He spends a lot of time reading and writing. He’s an artist at heart. And so I feel like this fits him.” stated Myers.

The New School, Chapter 4 by R. Lewis Cordell is displayed. Cordell wrote his own book on teaching in the past decade and is currently working on publishing his second book. (Photo Taken from YouTube)

Throughout the previous summer, Cordell has spent his time reading and writing: specifically a book titled Tao Te Ching. The book, which originated in six century China, has led him to develop a new teaching style. 

“…what I did essentially was I wanted to completely destroy my methodology and rebuild it.” Ron said. 

This is exactly what Cordell implemented in the 2019-2020 school year. Instead of giving multiple choice tests every week, he developed a style of teaching that is very scarce among the modern academic community. Every day his students begin with a daily written quiz on topics they learned just the day before so it’s fresh in their minds, then they listen to a daily lecture known as “10 minutes of Goodness,” followed by vocab words that increase the students knowledge of the topic, and ends with an optional assignment where students research judicial happenings within the country. 

Cordell has made an impact on the knowledge that students are able to retain, their understanding of the topic, and has relieved them of daily stress that encompasses them in their other classes by the way he has shaped the class. 

“It is just more of a comfortable atmosphere,” stated Blake McLaren, a past student of Cordell’s U.S. History class. 

Not only is Cordell making an impact on his current students, but Sage Creek alumni still see Cordell as a thoughtful mentor and friend. Alumnus Sam Bodnar feels that Cordell has truly taught him the real meaning of learning, and how students should not stress about a deadline or a grade when really, all they should be doing is paying attention and learning. Although Cordell has impacted the older generations academically, he also impacts them emotionally.

Ron Cordell indulges in a sculling class. Cordell had an extra block of time in his schedule and decided to fill it by taking a high school class. This not only allowed him to learn something new but to engage with the student body on a different level. (Photo Taken by Bella Niems)

“…Cordell was always like a person to just calm me down and talk me through some things that were getting me anxious or hasty decisions,” said Bodnar. 

Cordell can be seen as a different color light depending on who you are talking to. In one’s eyes he is the teacher that litters his room with Rock ‘n’ Roll posters, to another he is the man who guided them through their years of teaching, to another he is the one teacher that evaluates a student more on their knowledge than their test-taking abilities, to another he is the friendly acquaintance that mourns the Rock ‘n’ Roll legends, and to all he is a friend, a mentor, and a guru.