Considering Service on AMTE's Board? Insights from Current and Past Leaders

On Being President

To hear insights from the current President and four former Presidents, watch this video clip: AMTE Presidential Table Talk 2021.

Reflections on the AMTE Presidency by Fran Arbaugh

I clearly remember the phone call from Barbara Reys, asking if I would consider being on the upcoming ballot for AMTE President. At the time, I had just moved from the University of Missouri to Penn State University and used that move as an “excuse” not to run. “Maybe in the future,” I told Barbara. Looking back, while there was some truth to this excuse, I also realize now that I was rather intimidated by the prospect of being the President of an international professional organization like AMTE. Could I really do it? Would I be able to dedicate four years (President-Elect for a year, President for 2 years, Immediate Past-President for an additional year) in this role? Was this a venue where I had the potential to fail colossally and very publicly?

All of those thoughts had been swirling around in my head when Barbara called me back a few weeks later to ask if I would reconsider my no position. The timing of her second call was fortuitous for her (and, it turns out, for me). I had recently been thinking a lot about pushing myself outside of my comfort zone – about the importance of taking on things that intimidate me  – about being more courageous. I had recently viewed and been inspired by Brene´ Brown’s 2010 TED talk about vulnerability and was looking forward to reading her upcoming book titled Daring Greatly, to be published in 2012. You may be thinking – “Fran Arbaugh? Not courageous? Intimidated by the challenge? How can that be?” Well, now you know my secret!! So, in that second phone call with Barbara I called up all of my newfound and untested courage and vulnerability and said yes.

Saying yes to Barbara and AMTE was the second-best decision of my professional career (the first was to pursue a PhD in mathematics education at Indiana University - Bloomington). This experience as ATME President was professionally and personally gratifying for me in a number of ways. Perhaps most importantly, I proved to myself that I could do this intimidating thing! While I might have had some hiccups as President, I did not go down in flames.

I won’t sugar coat it and say, “everything about being AMTE President is the best.” It takes a great amount of intellectual energy and time, and I had to put a lot of my own work on the back burner for two years. It required a bit more traveling than I was used to in order to represent AMTE nationally, sapping up additional energy on top of my everyday work of the professorate. I woke up every morning thinking, “what’s on my AMTE list today?” I never realized how much brain space being President took up until the afternoon of the last day of the Annual Meeting in Orlando when I passed the gavel to Christine Thomas. After taking a good nap, I had wandered across the street to the shops for some browsing (and buying). As I approached the hotel on the way back, I remember distinctly thinking, “I don’t have to wake up tomorrow morning thinking about my AMTE list.” That lack of a to-do list freed up a ton of space in my brain for thinking about other things!

But the good parts of being AMTE President dramatically outweigh the not-so-good. Without the travel, I never would have been at the table of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS), a group consisting of the Presidents of 20-some mathematics organizations in the U.S. I met such interesting people at those semi-annual meetings and felt that our work was important for mathematics education in the U.S. If I hadn’t been AMTE President, I would have missed doing interesting and important work with the NCTM, NSCM, and ASSM Presidents Diane Briars, Valarie Mills, and Diana Kasbaum, respectively, and the wonderful meals we shared while at CBMS meetings. I would have missed working with AMTE board members Ed Silver, Dorothy White, Stephen Pape, Suzanne Harper, Maggie McCatha, Nicole Rigelman, and Amy Roth-McDuffy (sorry if I forgot someone!). Getting to know these people better was definitely a highlight of the position. Tim Hendrix, Executive Director, and I started our positions at the same time and I cannot express my gratitude for his friendship and support and count him among my dear friends now. Because of being AMTE President, I was able to present sessions at NCTM and NCSM as a part of the Presidents’ Exchange program. I got to meet incredible early career mathematics teacher educators at STaR and form additional professional and personal relationships with many AMTE members at large during my tenure as President.

All of this is important “residue” from my time as AMTE President. Perhaps the most gratifying, however, has been watching the seeds that I planted as President grow and blossom. I won’t name those seeds here but am so proud to know that I was a part of really important AMTE work over the last nine years! I cherish the time I had as AMTE President and am so excited to see future generations of mathematics teacher educators move into leadership roles in our organization.

The moral of my story? Step out of your comfort zone. Take on something that intimidates you. Strive to contribute to the organization where you and your peeps experience professional growth and make life-long friendships. Run for the AMTE board in some capacity – as a Member-at-Large, Secretary, Treasurer, and/or President – or serve AMTE as a committee member or Division Vice-President. I promise you that this work will feed your soul – both professionally and personally.

President of AMTE, An Unexpected Opportunity by Marilyn E. Strutchens

I, Marilyn E. Strutchens, was the president of AMTE from 2011 – 2013. This was an awesome time to be president of a mathematics education organization. It was right after the Common Core State Standards had been launched. I spent most of my term advocating for mathematics teacher education preparation support at colleges and universities, supporting the implementation of the Common Core, supporting the implementation of the AMTE Elementary Mathematics Specialists Standards, ensuring diverse participation in AMTE committees and events, making equity and access a priority across AMTE initiatives, and instituting new committees and other services to meet the needs of our members. I believe that much was accomplished during my time as president and that AMTE maintained and gained more visibility.

To be honest, I had not thought of running for president of AMTE until Skip Fennell called me and told me that I had been nominated to run for the office. I actually laughed when he told me and did not think that I had a chance of winning. When I was elected, I was truly surprised and honored. Throughout most of my career, I have been involved in AMTE, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, Research Council for Diagnostic and Prescriptive Mathematics (now RCML), the Benjamin Banneker Association, TODOS, and other mathematics education organizations. Prior to becoming president of AMTE, my service to AMTE had included: serving on the Mentoring Committee (2008-2010); Series Editor, Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators Monographs, which provided a forum for mathematics teacher educators to exchange ideas about their work with preservice and inservice teachers and about their collaborative efforts with others who play significant roles in mathematics teacher education (e.g., content faculty, clinical faculty responsible for mentoring student teachers) (2007-2010); and Editor for the Special Issue of the Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education (JMTE) on Equity in Mathematics Teacher Education (2009 -2012). Through these service activities and my involvement in other organizations, I became acquainted with many members of the AMTE. My involvement in the service activities and the field as a whole primed me for my term as president of AMTE.

My success as president of AMTE can be attributed to my willingness to put as much time as possible in the role; my being able to collaborate well with the past president, Barbara Reys, then executive director, Nadine Bezuk, the annual meeting program director, Susan Gay, and the other AMTE Board of Directors; and my having a team of consultants (other past presidents of AMTE, especially Skip Fennell and Judith Jacobs, Karen King, Ken Krehbiel, Dave Barnes, W. Gary Martin, and others) on stand-by.

For anyone seeking to take on the role of president of AMTE, I offer the following tips:

  1. Be willing to spend the president-elect year learning the role and thinking about how you are going to organize your time so that you can meet the obligations of being president of the organization.
  2. If you can, negotiate some time for your load allocation or a graduate assistant to provide support.
  3. Learn as much as possible about the organization and make sure you are aware of major issues impacting mathematics teacher education and education in general.
  4. Be prepared to stand up for mathematics teacher education.
  5. Know that you are a part of a team and work well with your team members to elevate and support the organization and its members.

On Being Treasurer

To hear Anita Wager and Sarah Quebec Fuentes talk frankly about the skills, commitment, joys, and challenges of being Treasurer, watch this video clip: So You Want to Be the Treasurer? 

Insights on Being Treasurer by Anita Wagner and Sarah Quebec Fuentes

The Treasurer manages and documents all of the income (e.g., membership fees, donations, sponsorships, and conference registration) and expenses (e.g., invoices and travel reimbursements) of the organization. The Treasurer completes these responsibilities in collaboration with AMTE’s Financial Services Manager, Executive Director, Board, and Finance Committee. In addition to the tasks specific to the role, the Treasurer is a member of the AMTE Board, participating in all Board activities and decisions. The work of the Treasurer requires approximately 5 hours per week.

To manage the various responsibilities, the Treasurer needs to be organized and attend to detail. Additionally, the position requires problem solving skills and creativity. On the technical side, the Treasurer should have facility with Microsoft Excel. The Treasurer also works with QuickBooks® and PayPal®, although experience with either is not a requirement. Any experience managing monies for another entity (e.g., AMTE affiliate, Parent Teacher Association, religious organization) would help in the transition into the position. Further, the outgoing Treasurer and Financial Services Manager will provide support to the incoming Treasurer.

Both Anita Wager (former) and Sarah Quebec Fuentes (current) describe the work as fulfilling. They worked closely with the Executive Director and developed a sense of the organization in its entirety. Anita appreciated the escape the work provided from her other roles and responsibilities, and Sarah finds the work matches her personal strengths. They have forged connections with others in the field and made an important contribution to the organization.

On Being a Board Member-at-Large

A Conversation about Being a Member-at-Large by Christa Jackson and Eva Thanheiser 

The benefit of being a board member is that you get to work with amazing people. Christa and Eva connected through their work on the AMTE Board and have been collaborating since. To share a bit about what is involved in being an AMTE Board member, Christa and Eva had a discussion:

Eva: So Christa, why did you decide to run for a Board position at AMTE? I have been a member of AMTE since graduate school (2007). While pursuing my doctoral degree, AMTE was the one professional organization that Drs. Fran Arbaugh, Kathryn Chval, and Barbara Reys, highly encouraged us as graduate students to attend. Every year I looked forward to attending the conferences in graduate school-carpooling with other graduate students, and I am still looking forward to attending every year. AMTE is and always has been one of my favorite organizations. I decided to run for Board Member-at-Large because it not only provided a way for me to be involved, it provided an impetus for me to continually place issues of equity and social justice at the forefront of AMTE’s focus. Without foregrounding AMTE's focus on equity and social justice, the work of mathematics teacher educators will be both unproductive and uneventful. I also wanted to broaden the community and membership of AMTE by increasing the number of mathematics teacher educators of color by purposefully targeting HBCUs, HSIs, and local colleges. Finally, I wanted to provide professional development to mathematics teacher educators that focused on ways to foreground equity and social justice in preparing prospective mathematics teachers.

Christa: So Eva, why did you decide to run for a Board position at AMTE? Christa, same as you, I started attending AMTE in graduate school, encouraged by Drs. Nadine Bezouk and Randy Philipp. I felt that AMTE was a welcoming community, and it soon felt like my professional home. However, I figured out soon that not everyone felt welcome and included at AMTE, so one of my goals when running was to work toward AMTE being more welcoming to everyone. For example, connecting first time AMTE attendees with a buddy for the conference, creating mentoring/peer groups to allow AMTE members to support each other. Being a mother of baby twins during graduate school and adding a third later, I also wanted to work toward supporting AMTE members in negotiating the various parts of their lives.

Eva: So Christa, can you describe what was entailed in your position at AMTE? AMTE went through a restructuring of leadership by identifying specific Divisions within the organization. So, when I was elected as Board Member at-Large, I was the Board’s Liaison to the Advocacy, Equity, and Research (AER) Division. I worked closely with the VP of the Division. The other Divisions within the restructure had solid charges, but the AER Division did not have specified charges. We knew the AER Division was an important Division within AMTE, but there were no clear guidelines/charges provided. So, I worked closely with the VP and the AVPs of each committee (Emerging Issues, Equity, and Research) to identify the charge for each committee and Division. I am excited to say with all of the work of the VP and AVPs we have a clear focus for the AER Division. Not only do we have a clear focus, we advocated for and were successful in changing the name of the Emerging Issues Committee to the Advocacy Committee to further align with the overarching charge of the Advocacy, Equity, and Research Division. We also have instituted a new award within the Advocacy Committee called the Karen D. King Excellence in Advocacy Award.

Christa: So Eva, can you describe what was entailed in your position at AMTE? When I was elected I was asked to be the board liaison to the Publications division. This entailed becoming an editorial board member of MTE and connecting between the board of AMTE and the MTE panel. Being part of the editorial panel of MTE allowed me to work with the panel to start the MTE podcast, which accompanies each article published in MTE. I also learned a lot about the different publications AMTE has and worked toward making those more visible to all AMTE members. In general, I collaborated with other board members such as you (Christa) to ensure various voices were heard during the Board meetings.

Eva: So Christa, reflecting back on your time on the board, what would say was one of your important contributions and what would you say was the most fun? Beyond what I have already mentioned, I would say having the opportunity to meet and collaborate with new people has been a rewarding experience from serving on the Board. Although I have opportunities to speak to and collaborate with other AMTE members through attending the conference, serving on the Board allowed more intimate types of friendships and collaborations to develop by attending the yearly retreats and monthly Board meetings that may not have otherwise occurred. As a result of serving on the Board, I am collaborating with three colleagues--who also served on the Board—on major research and teaching projects. I believe these opportunities would not have been possible if I did not serve on the Board.

Christa: So Eva, reflecting back on your time on the board, what would say was one of your important contributions and what would you say was the most fun? Same!!!! I love the connections that we are able to make by discussing issues that address mathematics teacher educators. With respect to important contributions, I am hoping that I was a voice that reminded us on the Board to be cognizant of representation at all levels of AMTE.

As you can tell from our descriptions, we really enjoyed meeting each other and others, and collaborating to move AMTE toward its goals.