Meet Dr. Amanda Mayeaux: How Conducting Research Battles Status Quo Structures
"Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth, more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.” ~Bertrand Russell
For over twenty-five years, Dr. Amanda Shuford Mayeaux has worked in schools from pre-k through 12th grade in a variety of positions from teacher to district leadership. She is currently an assistant professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Educational Foundations and Leadership. Her quest to push boundaries began in frustration over a pattern she had witnessed for years in education. Winning the Milken Family Foundation Educator Award in 2003 and being named the 2006 Disney Teacher of the Year along with her teaching partners, Monique Wild and Kathryn Edmonds, connected her with award-winning educators from around the country. Their stories of excellence in teaching often had a twist of being isolated and ignored. She struggled to understand why some teachers pushed all boundaries to help children achieve overwhelmingly positive results, while others were complacent with the same less than positive results year after year. Here, variance in practices, policies, and attitudes created systems of inequity and Amanda was tired of poor quality being ignored. As a result, Amanda uses acute research, both qualitative and quantitative research to push against status quo structures and inequity.
As part of her dissertation research, Amanda began interviewing, observing, and studying award-winning teachers and leaders across America. These educators pushed boundaries and were often pushed back on by the status quo. The answers she found through research methods were inspiring, frightening, and led to understanding what motivates the expert teacher to persist. Her discoveries have been published and shared at various conferences. She understands not only what expert teachers and leaders do in schools, but why and how they positively impact students. Dr. Mayeaux is currently applying this research to understand the underpinnings of the social injustice found in rural schools. She seeks to find solutions for schools and students, who are often ignored in policy debates. The Escaping the School Leader's Dunk Tank book is also engaging in a research partnership with Amanda's powerful mixed methods research framework which will bring adversity training for educators and school leaders to those who work and serve within the higher education community. We invite you to participate in this ongoing anonymous research collection process which can be found by clicking HERE.
Most notably, Amanda shares these thoughts with you:
“Education has a tremendous need for great thinkers in every classroom and in every school. The first scripted lesson I was given angered me. Had I really spent four years in college to be given a rote script? My students were individuals with individual needs. Scripts and canned programs did not, do not, and will never be the answer. I rebelled and began to figure out ways to solve the problems my students were having. The award-winning teachers I interviewed could not think of one problem in their classroom they had not solved by pushing boundaries and thinking differently. This process has remained the cornerstone of everything I do in my career. For example, my students were not passing ACT, so I took the test at my house, figured out the issues, and created a set of strategies. Last year the two schools who worked with me had +44% gains in students qualifying for the state tuition exemption scholarship based on ACT scores. Not too shabby for a cheap, easily implemented intervention, I made up at my kitchen table. Powerful educators think independently and push boundaries, because they are motivated by what I coined as Teacher-Student Kinship. More importantly, powerful educators believe that they have the responsibility and the ability to positively impact the learning . . . because our students are counting on us!"
Pushing the boundaries is the touchstone of her career and she continues to push. She concluded this blog post by saying, “My journey continues to lead me to find other educators who push the boundaries, like the Pushing Boundaries group. If we truly desire for every child to have powerful educators in every classroom and every school, we must become an ACTIVE PLN and a profession of thinkers, who think…question…reflect…empower…and push the boundaries.”