To the COE Class of 2017

May 4, 2017

So traditionally, I select a children’s book to share, but I have something a little different for you all. I have a poem I’d like to give you.  The poem is by Joyce Rupp with a few tweaks for our occasion.  The poem is called Old Maps No Longer Work. Here it is:

I keep pulling it out –
the old map of my inner path.
I squint closely at it,
trying to see some hidden road
that maybe I’ve missed,
but there’s nothing there now
except some well-travelled paths.
they have seen my footsteps often,
held my laughter, caught my tears.

I keep going over the old map
but now the roads lead nowhere,
a meaningless wilderness
where life is dull and futile.

“toss away the old map,” she says
“you must be kidding!” I reply.

she looks at me with those eyes
and repeats, “toss it away.
it’s of no use where you’re going.”

“I have to have a map!” I cry,
“even if it takes me nowhere.
I can’t be without direction.”

“but you are without direction,”
she says, “so why not let go, be free?”

so there I am – tossing away the old map,
sadly fearfully, putting it behind me.
“whatever will I do?” wails my security

“trust me” says my soul.

no map, no specific directions,
no “this way ahead” or “take a left”.
how will I know where to go?
how will I find my way? no map!

but then my soul whispers:
“there was a time before maps
when pilgrims travelled by the stars.”

it is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.

Friends, for the last four years, you’ve been following a map someone else determined for you—Okay,—it was probably me and my curriculum maps.

But now is the time for you to be your own mapmaker. Let your life be a map in the making. Live your adventure and document the obstacles so that others might travel by the light that guides you until they find the courage to make their own way. Parker Palmer says, “Draw deep on your values and visions for a better world, and follow them even when doing so gets you crosswise with others.”

And know this. There are 86,400 seconds in a day. More than 126 million seconds have passed since you arrived on campus as first year students. See, there is plenty of time. But time is funny–it has a way of slipping by quicker than we’d like on occasion and dragging on indefinitely, especially when we are looking forward to spending our time differently. So, I encourage you to not waste a single second on doubting whether you are ready to make your own map and chart your course. You are.  And I, for one, am incredibly grateful for all the time I’ve had with you and for your willingness to trust the maps made for you while you were waiting for this moment to create your own.


Outstanding Seniors

May 3, 2017

Since 2012, one of my favorite (and most anxiety producing) responsibilities in my role as the COE’s Middle-Secondary Program Coordinator at Butler University is to write the address for Senior Celebration night which ends with the  announcement of the graduating class’s Outstanding Middle-Secondary Student award winner. I love doing it because it provides me a bit of a respite at the point in the semester usually fraught with stress, deadlines and demands to stop and reflect on the joyful journey I’ve witnessed another group of amazing students take.  The address almost always begins the same way–recognizing (okay, bemoaning) the difficult task of naming just one student for the award. Each time I write it, I struggle with the paradox that while I start each address nearly the exact same way year after year, it is no less true each time I say it. In the act of writing, I’m always reminded of what a privilege it is to have witnessed up-close so many moments of transformation in these young people. In the act of addressing the class, I’m reminded of what a privilege it is to witness up-close the specific moment of transformation where we change roles from being students and professor to being colleagues.

This spring, as I’m only sabbatical, the privilege of writing the address belongs to my colleague, but even as she prepares to give the address, I’m still thinking about the joyful journey this group has had. This got me thinking back to the other addresses I’ve given and I thought  I’d like to share those past addresses here to honor my former students and to make their beautiful teaching practice more public.

To the class of 2014

April 2, 2017

Each year, the faculty of the middle-secondary program is given the charge to name one outstanding student who we feel embodies the vision and core values of our college as well as the goals of our middle-secondary program. The task is almost never easy. Really, that task of selecting a single graduate seems impossible. It seems impossible when a compelling case could be and has been made for each one of our graduates. Truly, the entire middle-secondary program class of 2014 is outstanding, and this class is also very special to me for another reason.

Ten years ago, in the spring of 2004, most of this class of 2014 was finishing 6th grade–their first year of middle school. As for me, I was leaving my own middle school classroom to pursue a new teaching path…one that involved the preparation of new teachers.

Back in 2004, I had an 18 month old and a newborn son at home and I was determined to prepare middle and high school teachers to teach in schools as they should be and not simply perpetuate schools as they existed.

Now, ten years later, here we are all together in the spring of 2014 continuing the beautiful cycle of endings and beginnings. Tonight I have the honor to stand before this amazing group of new teachers who will tomorrow end their time as undergraduates and begin their lives as educators. And if I’m very lucky, my son—the one who was 18 months old when I left my middle school classroom—he will be taught by some of you as he begins middle school this August. And if he does have any of you as a teacher, I’m confident that he’ll encounter school as it should be.

During their time in the College of Education, the class of 2014 has witnessed lots of political conversations about how schools should be, how teachers should be prepared, and how those teachers should be held accountable.  And in spite of the tone of those conversations, this class of educators has chosen to boldly speak truth to power. The truth is that our College is sending out the very best and the very brightest there is. In a time when the rhetoric around school and teacher accountability aims to boil performance outcomes down to a simplistic ranking, we are sending out educators who are sophisticated and smart enough to understand the complexities that come with working and caring for our students. They are also wise enough to see that displaying a willingness to try something that’s never been done before or making a difference in the lives of individual students doesn’t fit neatly in a rubric– and that’s okay. They understand that when it comes to teaching and learning there’s never just one right way.

But alas, there can be but one graduate named as the outstanding middle-secondary student:

This year’s honor goes to a person who nearly all of us in the College of Education, be we student or faculty, have counted on for help at one time or another.  This young woman was instrumental in crafting the Information Literacy minor; she helped to co-teach one of our Technology in Education courses, through her honor’s thesis she conducted a teacher research study that will help reshape curriculum in our College of Education, and she’s helped more of her peers with their professional e-portfolios than we could even begin to count. During her 8 semesters at Butler, this student was in four of my classes, one of my husband’s, I advised her amazing thesis project, and I’ve supervised her student teaching experience.  And in all this time, it has been my privilege and my joy to watch this young woman emerge from the shadows and into spotlight. Ladies and gentleman, the 2014 Outstanding Middle-Secondary student is Ms. Michelle Trainor.

For the last three years, Ms. Trainor has been an amazing middle school English teacher. She is also on the cusp of earning her Master’s in Effective Teaching and Leadership from Butler in May of 2017. She was the co-developer of the project-based summer enrichment curriculum implemented the by the Horizon’s middle grades program in the summer of 2016. She was also an invited presenter at the National Horizon’s Conference in Atlanta. Within and beyond her school district, she’s been recognized for her leadership in meaningful technology integration. Further, her work on helping and coaching others in how to align personal philosophy with curriculum as a means to thrive in the classroom has exponential possibility for our profession.

To the Class of 2016

March 31, 2017

Each year, the faculty is given the charge to name one outstanding student who we feel embodies the vision and core values of our college as well as the goals of our specific program area. The task is almost never easy-not for any program area. Each year that I have had the privilege to stand up here to announce this award, I’ve been sure that no future graduating class could possibly hold nearly as many amazing students. And yet, here you are sitting before me now, and here I am again wondering if there could be a better group than this, wondering how in the world the time has come to let you go.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately—about the difficult chore of letting go. Perhaps it is because my own boys, who were infants when I started here at Butler, are already in middle-school now, and I can’t believe how quickly the time has come and gone.

Just last week, the middle-secondary program shared our final night of class together and as has become our program’s tradition, I selected a children’s book to read aloud to our graduating class. Since I’d been thinking about that difficult chore of letting you all go, this year’s book was Dr. Seuss’s, Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now! I won’t read the whole thing to you all again, but I’d like to share a little piece of it tonight for our families…mostly the alternative ending.

     Marvin K. Mooney!

    I don’t care HOW.

          Marvin K. Mooney!

          Will you please GO NOW!

          I said GO and GO I meant….

          The time had come SO Marvin WENT.

          Marvin K. Mooney went, indeed. He went out into the world to help ALL kids succeed.

          Now sure, I will miss ol’ Marvin K. for teaching him always brightened my day.

          But, if Marvin doesn’t go, if he’s too scared to leave, who else will go out there and make them


          To believe that our teachers, where ever you go, have powers much greater than most people know.

          Marvin K. Mooney had to go, so he went out to the world in which he was sent.

          Out to the world as an agent of change—no challenge he faces is out of his range.

          So Marvin must leave BUTLER because he’s ready to go—and that’s something his CoE family already knows.

Parents and families, please know how grateful we are that you had the courage and strength to let go of your kiddo four (or 5) years ago. You trusted that they were ready and you let them find their way to Butler and into our College of Education. I hope you know that we have and will continue to care for them, to celebrate with them, and to have big hopes for them too.

Tonight I have the honor to stand before this amazing group of new teachers who will tomorrow end their time as undergraduates and embark on their journeys as educators. Just as you put your trust in us when you let your sons and daughters come here to Butler, now I am putting my trust in your sons and daughters to teach and mentor my own children. In that act, I’m confident that 4 or 5 years from now, I’ll be brave enough to let go of my own boys and to trust that they too are ready to go.  So, while I am a little sad to see the class of 2016 leave here, I am excited to let them go because I know their time has come, they are all ready and they are needed out in the world.

The time has also come for me to share the name of the 2016 Outstanding Middle-Secondary Student:

This year’s honor goes to a young woman who has said yes to everything she possibly could in her time at Butler. She has been recognized as a Top 10 Butler University Student not once, but twice. She has been a Butler University Ambassador- a person our university relies on to not only exemplify our Butler values and community, but to share our story in a way that makes people want to say yes to being a part of it too. She exemplifies the heart and soul of our College of Education Core Values and personifies of the Butler Way seeking out the toughest challenges with an attitude of humility and tenacity that makes her a pure joy to work with. Her work ethic is matched not only by her sincere care and support of others, but by her sense of humor as well. Ladies and gentleman, it is my pleasure to announce the 2016 Outstanding Middle-Secondary student is Ms. Carly Allen.

Ms. Allen is completing her first very successful year as a high school mathematics teacher. She found the time and energy to participate in our Alumni Collaborative nights during the fall semester where she was an invited guest speaker for our methods course. We can’t wait to see what the future brings!!



**Dear Readers,

You may have noticed a gap in the posting sequence as I did not offer an address for our 2015 Outstanding Student. The award recipient was Ms. Amber Zimay–an absolutely amazing young woman who has spent the last two years teaching in Mexico as a Fulbright Scholar. The address was given by my friend and colleague, Dr. Susan Adams, so that I could be with my family to grieve the loss of my big brother who passed on May 2nd, 2015.

To the Class of 2013

March 31, 2017

Each year, the faculty of the middle-secondary program is given the charge to name one outstanding student who we feel embodies the vision and core values of our college as well as the goals of our middle-secondary program. Each year, that task of selecting a single graduate seems impossible. It seems impossible when a compelling case could be made for each one of our graduates. Truly, the class of 2013 poses an additional challenge for me, personally. As a new tenure-track faculty member in the fall of 2009, the freshmen class became my first group of advisees. So on that August day four years ago under the College of Education tent when I promised you parents, that  we would do everything we could to take care of the important person you were leaving on campus, I think I was just as scared and nervous as any new  student or parent there on the mall. But, together over the last four years, we have certainly learned a lot. We’ve figured out how to study abroad in Greece, Spain, Russia, and Australia. And how to double major. We’ve figured out all the paperwork necessary for making Shakespeare plays in London count for EN 363, and all the possible variances for Professor Bigelow’s classes to count toward geography course requirements. We figured out electronic portfolios and how to attend class during March madness. We’ve figured out which graduate school to pursue, and we’ve even figured out wedding planning from time to time. But most importantly, we’ve come a little closer to figuring who we are and what our purpose in the world will be.  And we’ve figured out that to be good educators we must care deeply about our work, about those we teach and about one another.

In a time when the conversation about school accountability seems to place growth models and outcome measures on opposite ends of a continuum, this outstanding student is proof that when teaching and learning are deeply rooted in our caring for students, the growth we experience creates outcomes that are impossible to quantify— Please allow me to share how this year’s Outstanding Middle Secondary Student Teacher is seen by her students. The following is a letter written by a student from our award winner’s high school placement:

Dear Miss Goss,

I have truly enjoyed your time with us at Pike High School.  You have a gift; you made Hamlet easy and fun to read!  I loved coming to English class because I knew that something different was in store for us each day. We never did the same thing and you were always curious to know what we liked and what we didn’t and you planned your teaching style around what worked for us. I appreciate that so much!

I thank you again for the small, yet meaningful notes you gave me that let me and my parents know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing while at school….because you and I both know how senior year can be. You never once got upset, raised your voice, or had a bad attitude about anything and that shows that you honestly love teaching.  I have never once in my 12 years of school, enjoyed having a student teacher as much as I have enjoyed you being here. I wish you the best of luck and I know that you will be an excellent teacher and role model.

Allie, so do we. That is why Miss Bridgit Goss is this year’s Outstanding Middle Secondary Student Teacher.

Since 2013, Ms. Goss has been teaching high school English. She is on the cusp of completing her Master’s in Effective Teaching and Leadership from Butler in May 2017. She co-developed a project-based curriculum for a summer enrichment program, was an invited presenter at the National Horizon’s Conference in Atlanta in the spring of 2016, co-taught her first university course in the fall of 2016. She is recognized as a leader in her department and will be teaching a student research course beginning next year.

To the Class of 2012

March 30, 2017


In 2012, Ms. Amanda Huffman was named as the Outstanding Middle-Secondary Student. Here’s the address…

This year’s middle-secondary class is truly something special—I would even venture to call them AWESOME (a little inside joke referencing a twitter hashtag). Some of our students will be teaching abroad next year in places like Spain, Turkey, France, and exotic Detroit, Michigan. Others are heading to amazing graduate programs. We have a few friends who will be celebrating their wedding days shortly after graduation, and a few more who have had their research accepted to present at a national conference. This group is special and I know without a doubt they are all ready to go out and change the world. But as it is our tradition to name one student who has over the course of his or her entire program come to represent our college’s vision and core values, I’m ready to share the winner with you. But I thought I’d let this student speak for herself. I’d like to share with you the letter of advice our candidate has written to the incoming freshman class. (This is a senior class tradition–writing a letter for an incoming first-year student to open on academic day the following fall as a way to leave their legacy.) 

Dear Future Educator,

By choosing Butler University’s College of Education you are already setting yourself up for success. Your four years will fly by and you will be in your own classroom in no time at all.  But, you will be more than ready. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that there may be times as you begin an education course when you may not fully understand its purpose or why you even have to take it. Don’t panic. Somewhere down the road you will see how it all connects.

With that, you should also know that your experience at Butler is whatever you chose to make of it. If you are curious or confused about something, the professors are there to help you, but you have to take initiative and ask your questions and voice your concerns or confusion. Your professors care about you and want you to succeed in becoming the best educator you can be for your future students, so they will challenge you to do new (and sometimes scary) things. You must know that these challenges are coming because they care and because they see something in you that you may not yet see in yourself. Take advantage of every challenge that comes your way and every experience you have out in the field, both the positive and the negative. Every experience will help you and will impact your future as an educator.

The last tidbit of advice is to challenge yourself to not fear failure. Challenge yourself to try new things while you have the overwhelming support and guidance in the College of Education. Never be afraid to fail as we learn from our failures. During my senior year, I completed a teacher research project co-teaching a mathematics unit using a novel called The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure story…After completing the unit and while analyzing the data, I realized that teaching math with literature in a cross-curricular approach really could work, and I also realized that there were parts of the project that failed. I wouldn’t have known that if I was afraid to try something new. Our failures teach us even more than our successes. I want to remember that next fall when I have my own classroom full of high school students!

If nothing else, please take from my letter that you are surrounded by support, so challenge yourself, try out new ideas, and make some mistakes!  Enjoy your next four years and be sure to live in the moments!

Best of luck,

Amanda Huffman

In the 5 years since being named the Outstanding Middle-Secondary Student, Ms. Huffman has taught high school mathematics. She presented her mathematical literacy research at the National AMLE conference, she earned her Master’s in Effective Teaching and Leadership from Butler. She developed and implemented a curriculum to support math methods instruction for Butler practicum students and has hosted multiple student teachers. In the fall of 2016, Ms. Huffman participated in the US Dept. of Education’s Teach to Lead Summit bringing together educators with innovative ideas for strengthening our profession from inside the ranks of teachers.