Work Spouse

March 31, 2017

On October 26th, 2016, I had the privilege of addressing friends and colleagues as we honored Dr. Kelli Esteves as the 2016-2019 College of Education Guyer Chair. Here, I share my thoughts with those of you who couldn’t be there:

I’m so excited to stand before you this evening as we honor my friend, my colleague, and my work wife—Dr. Kelli Esteves.

Now, you may be wondering why I just called Kelli my work-wife, but I can assure you that having a work spouse is a real thing. A “regular” marriage is a public declaration and recognition of a special union two people willingly enter into and a work marriage is pretty similar. When you have a work spouse, there is a recognition on the part of other colleagues that co-workers have a special kind of partnership. Working with Kelli has been a special kind of partnership. And, by the way, there are academics who are actually doing research on this phenomenon so it must be a real thing, right?

Dr. Debra Major, for example, is a professor of organizational psychology at Old Dominion University, and some of her current research focuses on work spouse relationships. Dr. Major contends that the work spouse relationship is the best kind of partnership. It is a sort of relationship that is pared down to the relationship core. The psychological components that we appreciate most about being in a relationship with another person whether that’s shared values, compatible personalities, or shared interests are there too in a purer form and it’s pretty great that there’s no need or cause to argue about bills or dirty dishes in the sink. Another scholar from Creighton University, Dr. Chris McBride, says that that the best part of a work marriage is that it’s characterized by trust, reciprocity and support. He says the trust piece is crucial because both professional satisfaction and professional success are at stake.  After all, work—for better or for worse–comprises nearly 90,000 hours of our lives, and if we are very lucky, we sometimes find a co-worker to share those 90,000 hours with who supports us in sickness and in health, in good time and in times of uncertainty. We find a confidant, a co-conspirator, and a kindred spirit. We find that trust, reciprocity, and support we need to make our work meaningful. And, when Dr. Kelli Esteves came to Butler in the fall of 2010, I found that.

When Kelli was going up for tenure and promotion, I wrote her a letter of support. Prior to writing that letter on Kelli’s behalf, I had only written two other support letters, and both had been for former professors and mentors—women I admired and in whose path I wanted to follow.  As I sat down to write this letter of support for my friend and peer, I wondered what I could share about Dr. Esteves’s strengths that would best support a colleague I admire and walk next to on this professional journey.  Suddenly, it occurred to me that many of my own best moments on this path and the contributions I’ve been able make to our college so far have come directly from the times when I’ve been working right next to Kelli.

She has been a very significant influence in my own professional development and successes as well as my personal growth and adventures.  Professionally, every time I’ve stretched myself, Dr. Esteves has been by my side whether that’s been in our co-facilitation of the Time to Think retreats, co-presentations at conferences, or co-taught blocks of the Core II over the last 4 years. It’s been at A-Team where we trust that we can count on each other when navigating the grid and grind of scheduling and faculty load assignments. It’s been on search committees and at my kitchen table with our 4th Year Review materials spread out before us. Personally too, Kelli’s been by my side when I’ve stretched myself to take a risk or go on an adventure. She’s been with me on the High Ropes course where challenge-by-choice took on new heights. And mostly recently she willingly and enthusiastically let me—my whole family, actually–go with her to England to study children’s literature. We traveled by planes, trains, tubes, and broomsticks.  We kayaked in a freezing lake with it’s own monster during a storm. We survived a 4-mile march into oncoming traffic to make the pilgrimage to Beatrix Potter’s home and got into a bit of a jam with the very large bus on a very narrow road. We stormed castles in Scotland and raised a pint in the dark when the restaurant lost power. In short, we had a grand adventure and a trip that I’ll never forget.

However, the most important thing that my work with Dr. Esteves has yielded is a relationship I deeply value–one that is the best kind of partnership because at its core, it’s built on trust, reciprocity, and support. With her support, I’m a stronger faculty member of our college.

Kelli exemplifies what it means to be a truly collaborative colleague.  While I say Kelli is my work wife, the truth is that she gives all of her colleagues the same trust, reciprocity, and support that she gives me which is why our senior colleagues have recognized her as the next Guyer Chair. And while a clock is the gift traditionally given in celebration of the first year anniversary, this particular clock given to Richard Guyer for outstanding service to Butler University is passed along to the newly named chair at his or her installation.  So, Dr. Esteves, I entrust this to you now as it continues to keep count of our next 80,000 or so hours.  I extend my gratitude and my congratulations, and I look forward to many more anniversaries!

When others see something in you that you haven’t seen yet

March 31, 2017

On November 11, 2013, after being selected by senior faculty in the College of Education, I was installed as the Guyer Chair in Education.  The honor was such a shock to me and I struggled with preparing my remarks. This recognition and the installation ceremony remains one of the proudest moments of my life. This is a three-year recognition and in the fall of 2016 the honor was passed to Dr. Kelli Esteves. I was so honored to be asked to give remarks at Kelli’s installation ceremony which I found way easier to make than at my own! I decided to post my remarks so that others might have a chance to read about Dr. Esteve’s impact on me (and the CoE). However, in doing so, I revisited remarks I made at my own installation and found them to still be true.

So, 3 1/2 years later…

I’d like to thank Mr. Hockett for his generosity and Dr. Guyer who inspired this gift. I feel so humbled to be a part of this legacy.

Many of you know that I’ve struggled with my remarks for this evening, so I don’t want anyone to think I’m stalling, but I’d like to start by thanking some of the special people in room this evening…

First, I’d like to thank my two boys Eli and Evan who are giving up a pizza party and wearing dress shoes to be here this evening. I tell my students all the time that I’m preparing them to be the kinds of teachers I want my boys to have. When I started this journey, the boys were just babies, and now they are in the 4th and 5th grade. I appreciate their patience with all my late nights and working weekends. They are super smart and I hope that they get a Butler grad as a teacher as they move into middle school in the next year or two and that they’ll see what mom’s work is really about.

Speaking of late nights and weekends, I often get teased about the amount of time I spend at the office. I stay late and come in on weekends because I love my work and because there’s never a shortage of work to be done and I can’t stand to leave a task half finished. My mom is my role model for working hard and finishing the job, and I hope that I reflect her work ethic everyday. I won’t say anything else about her though because I know she will die of embarrassment at this very moment if people are looking her direction.

My wonderful in-laws, Sue and Drew Furuness are here this evening as well. Both are career educators and have shown me what it means to be dedicated to public education. Even in retirement, they continue to teach and to council whether it’s at the Pioneer School House or the state park with the boys or the nearest high school guidance office that promises they’re just looking for a little consulting but always ask for him to stay a little longer.  I appreciate all you guys do.

Mrs. Karen Yeager, was my English teacher at Mooresville High School.  Twenty years ago Mrs. Yeager accompanied me to my high school’s Top 20 Seniors Banquet as my most influential teacher. When I asked Mrs. Yeager to come to this reception, she said she’d come if I promised not to tell the Prom story. I promised I wouldn’t, but I will tell you it is a good one! I recently was reminded that Mrs. Yeager is a Butler Master’s graduate. Not only was Dr. Guyer one of her teachers, but she also taught with his daughter. I am thankful that Mrs. Karen Yeager was the kind of teacher who cared about and knew her students in class and out of class. Mrs. Yeager was wicked smart and wicked funny. So I hope I reflect the joy that comes from having a good time with your students.

Tina Campbell and John Campbell and their kids Ellie and Brody are here this evening. Both are graduates of Butler’s Master’s program and both are amazing teachers.  John is in Washington Township and Tina and I taught in Wayne Township together.  She is the reason I came to Butler in the first place. She was the best teacher in the building and she was finishing her Master’s here at Butler. Tina taught me about controlled chaos in a middle school classroom!

Also here this evening is my friend and mentor, Dr. Judy Lysaker. While Tina was the reason I came to Butler, Judy was the reason I wanted to stay at Butler forever. I met Judy as a Master’s student working on my thesis project.  I knew that Butler University had a distinctive philosophy but I wondered if it was really evident in actual classroom practice. After observing Judy’s class for a semester and interviewing her students, it became clear to me it was absolutely possible to live your philosophy in the classroom. One of our alums, Bridgit Goss teases that when she’s stuck on planning something for class, she’ll ask herself, “What Would Furuness Do”.  Well, Judy is that person for me.

Dr. Cindy Wilson, I can honestly say that without Dr. Wilson there is no way I would be here. I mean I literally have her job. When I finished my master’s at Butler and went down to IU to get my doctorate, I made it clear that this was the place I wanted to work. It is absolutely surreal to hold the exact faculty position your advisor and mentor held.  For my first several years here, I was introduced as the “new” Dr. Wilson—It’s been a very tough act to follow, but I am so very thankful that she had faith in me.

Finally, I liked to thank my wonderful husband Bryan for being here. Aside from being super cute, incredibly smart, and pretty funny, he’s a wonderful dad, he’s my best friend and my biggest fan. I’m able to do the work I do because he believed in me first and made it possible for us to chase the next big thing on the horizon.

Thanks to you all for coming…

For weeks now, I’ve been trying to prepare remarks for this evening.  And for weeks, I’ve been left speechless by this honor.

And, anyone who has ever been in class with me, or on a committee with me knows how rarely I’m at a loss for words. I always have something to say. Yet, I am at a loss for words. As much as I’ve thought about this night and what I might say to express my gratitude, everything seems inadequate. Nothing I’ve thought to say to this point seems to truly represent how completely this individual honor is dependent upon my collaborative work with other, truly amazing people.

When I look around this room at my mentors, my friends, my students, and my amazing colleagues, I see compassion, integrity, and dedication personified. I see servant leaders and people deeply committed to the well-being of the whole student. I see change agents with a vision for what schools could be like for kids. And I see that vision being advanced everyday in nearly every interaction I have. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it. And so to be in the company of colleagues such as these and to be the one standing before you receiving this honor leaves me humbled.

Last year in my 4th year review, I talked about how it’s really hard to predict what our work will be or will look like in the future tense. Seeing into the future is difficult for sure. But predicting the future and having a vision for where one is heading are different things. I never could have predicted that I’d be standing here this evening. I just did not see that coming.  But my senior colleagues must have more vision than I do because they see something in me that I have not yet seen in myself.

I also wrote in my 4th year review about how faculty members can only truly succeed when we see how our work contributes to the larger goals and mission of our teaching and learning community. We can only be successful if we refuse isolation and refuse to see our work as ours alone. The thing I love most about working in our college is that it not only allows me, but encourages me to live my philosophy and beliefs about teaching and learning.  The teaching, the scholarship, the service I have the privilege to do everyday aligns with my vision of what education could and should be. And that is-collaborative, joyful, curious, ethical, always looking toward what is possible, and always remembering that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Being named the Guyer Chair feels like an honor that is bigger than my individual work and this recognition is only possible because of the community of people I work with.

And so, this is how I’ve come to make sense of being named the Guyer Chair—the way I can account for what it is the senior faculty have seen in me, is that I must be doing a good job of reflecting all those qualities I desperately hope to emulate in the community of people here sharing this evening with me. That does make me very proud.

So, thank you all for letting me be a part of this community and for making my work joyful.  Thank you for seeing this in me.

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.


Aren’t you too old for a tattoo?

March 14, 2017

 I’ve always been afraid of getting a tattoo–for lots of reasons. One reason being that it would hurt (and it did, a lot.) But, more broadly my reasons had to do with the fact that people always want to know the “why” and the “what” of your tattoo story…Why’d you pick that and what does it mean? Why there? What made you decide to get it? Until now, I didn’t have an answer compelling enough to satisfy me.

I think tattoos represent something very personal and intimate about how one sees the world. They are documentation of your thinking made visible to other people. A tattoo represents at least part of your identity. Even if the tattoo is located in a less publicly visible space, it shows others (and yourself) who you believe yourself to be or what beauty you see in the world. The placement of the tattoo is part of the story too. The placement is an invitation of sorts and an indication of whom you’ll allow to see that part of you.  The idea that a tattoo is a part of your identity, but only a part always stopped me from seriously considering a permanent representation. Self-definition and identity integration have been very important concepts to me, so much so, that I simply couldn’t imagine an image that would fully integrate enough parts of myself to show the “whole” me, and I didn’t want a permanently fragmented image projected to the world or to myself.

I’m 41 (almost 42) and I have become what I want to be when I grow up. I mean, I’m always in the process of becoming, but I’m no longer trying to figure out who I want to be. I know who I am. I know what I am called to do with my life. Now the goal is to be and to live a better version of myself each day. This spring of 2017, I’ve been on sabbatical and I’ve had the opportunity to read and think deeply about how to do that. So, I got a little tattoo, about the size of a quarter on my right wrist, left of center–a place I can see easily and a place you can see when I extend my hand to you in greeting. How will a tattoo help me live into a better version of myself each day you might wonder. Well, maybe it won’t, but it is a visual reminder, a touchstone, of the unifying theory working in my life–one I recognized as working in my life when given the time sabbatical affords me to stop, think, and reflect.

And now, I have an answer to the “what” and “why” questions of my tattoo story that satisfy me. What is it? What does it mean? Why?

It’s a Tree of Life with green, spiraling leaves within a blue circle. Why the Tree of Life? Because it is an image both sacred and philosophical. It is the sacred image at the alter in my own church, but it is also an image widely used in most religions, philosophies, and myths connecting all forms of creation. For me, the tree with the shape of the cross within it reminds me that I do have a calling, and while it is my calling, it is not a ministry. It is resistance and liberation. In Promise of the Paradox, Parker Palmer says, ” The older word for liberation is salvation…for its root meaning is “wholeness.” To be saved is to be made whole…The liberation of the cross frees us not for indulgence and ease but for the discipline of serving truth without fearing the contractions…But as I live in that resistance–as I acknowledge and confess it to myself and others–slowly my life is pulled open.”  The tree and the cross remind me of what I’m called to do and that I need to remember to be pulled open, not pulled apart, by it.

The green spiral leaves on the tree remind me that there is always a chance for renewal and new growth. The spiral shape is a constant reminder that our own growth has an outward ripple effect. And, the blue dots encircling the tree represent the many and the one bigger community(ies) in which I am rooted. Palmer reminds us that…“[T]here are circles within circles within circles, world without end. And his words remind me that we must always keep space open to invite others into community with us, even (and especially) those who challenge us. Palmer says, “In a true community, we will not choose our companions, for our choices are always limited by self-serving motives…In fact, we might define true community as that place where the person you least want to live with always lives…[C]ommunity comes as a by-product of commitment and struggle…community is a product of love in action and not of simple self-interest.”

There’s my tattoo story. What it is; what it means; why I got it. This tattoo is my public and visual declaration of who and how I want to be in the world. I recognize that I will fail to live up to this again and again. But it is my hope that any failure in what I cannot do will strengthen my discovery of what I can do and that I’ll continue to “learn that our gifts vary, with each person possessing some of what we need but no one possessing it all.