Educator Spotlight: Chris Gerrard

Educator in Scotland defeats insecurity with courage, advocacy

This story is part of a weekly series that celebrates outstanding teachers in our Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.


For children and adults alike, it can be intimidating to put ourselves out there.


If we have to speak in front of a crowd, read to a group of peers, present an idea to strangers or wave into a camera with gusto, many do so with apprehension fighting the smile on display.


But for millions of educators across the world, they do it anyway. Not only do teachers always prevail, but the possibility of encouraging even one student is bigger than any fear, so away they go. And, oh, the places they go.


Chris Gerrard is an additional support needs teacher in Glasgow, Scotland. Not only does he work with students who every day stand up to anxiety and communication fears, he feels it all along with them.  


Three years ago, he couldn’t have imagined pushing record and smiling into a camera for all his students and colleagues to see. But today, he’s got nearly 2,000 views on multiple Flipgrid videos, all of which accompany weekly tech discussions in front of colleagues, presentations on global stages with a cape on his back to boot, selfies with an extraordinary smile and empowering tutorials that leave you feeling like the superhero Chris knows you can be.  


It’s all because he believed in himself enough to try anyway.  


“There’s this saying that self-consciousness stifles creativity,” says Chris, who’s been teaching for nearly 20 years. “I used to worry about everything. I couldn’t speak in public — I would’ve been too quiet to do anything like that. But now, I’m so much more comfortable and confident in my own skin. I’m doing things I never would have done even a year ago, and it’s simply because I’ve taken time to make videos through Flipgrid. It’s been totally life-changing for me, just the best experience of my life. 


“I don’t care what people think anymore. I’m now just totally silly me, because nobody wants another somebody else. They want you, right? Maybe it’s a bit cheesy, but you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it and persevere.” 

Trying things together, one step at a time

When Chris first started mustering the courage to make videos, he would keep his camera turned off and use emojis or the whiteboard or images to build confidence. He did the same thing with his students – 12-year-olds who hadn’t been able to complete any work at all before being introduced to new technology like Flipgrid. Chris helped them to see a task differently.  


“When I first took up Flipgrid, I thought it might be quite daunting for a lot of my students to use the camera, so I put myself in front of it and tried it myself,” Chris says. “With every task I ask them to do, I ask myself first, ‘Would I do that?’ I just want my students to feel empowered – not to feel that they can’t be themselves or need to worry about a camera in front of them. So we persevered together. 

“Now, my students have independence,” Chris says. “They don’t need to rely on somebody else to accomplish something, and they see their full potential. It’s because Flipgrid is an inclusive and accessible tool that allows students to share their voice in any way they choose, regardless of any barrier they may face. Technology can make such a difference.”  


When he gets in front of fellow educators, his encouragement is all the same. He empathizes tremendously, knowing how difficult it can be to take on new things, but he sprinkles the effort with jokes and self-deprecation and honesty, and he makes you feel invincible.  

“Sometimes with technology, things don’t always work straight away, so many teachers just give up,” says Chris, who in June was announced as Scotland’s MIE Expert of the Year and continues to advocate for his colleagues to become MIE Experts as well. “But these videos don’t have to be perfect. Teachers think they need to spend hours editing, but the kids don’t need that. They want videos from you that are real and authentic! Give them a short, bite-sized video. Start slow, get that sense of achievement, and then make another one the next day.  


“If you can believe it, I can even see my own progression! I can see the confidence building in me. I just hope teachers can start taking those same steps to be courageous with it. That’s how transformation happens, and it has definitely made such a difference in me. I’m going to just keep going and going.”  


Follow Chris on Twitter. To learn more about accessibility and inclusivity in Flipgrid, click here.