Member Spotlight: Amanda Wilkerson

AACTE’s Member Spotlight features an individual from a member institution, highlighting how their work makes a difference in classrooms across the country. Nominate yourself or another member by providing a response to the following questions and sending it to mgrenda@aacte.org.

Meet Amanda Wilkerson …

Current Position: Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida 
Number of years in your position: 3 years 
Alma Mater: Florida A&M University #STRIKE
Hometown: Miami, Florida 

  1. Amanda WilkersonHow long have you been a member of AACTE?
    The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education is a very progressive organization. A part of its focus is futuristic in nature. That is, AACTE is interested in ensuring that the field of education is diversified, developing talented scholars of color so that they may engage in preparing the next instructional and administrative leaders. To that end, I began my tenure as a member of AACTE in 2016, first as a Holmes Scholars. Today, I continue to enjoy active membership in the association and commit much of my work to the iconic ideas that attracted me to join as a student scholar. Honestly, I cannot believe that I have nearly 6 years of continuous membership and involvement with AACTE! 

  2. Why did you join AACTE?
    I joined AACTE because of the association’s emphasis on providing a non-collapsible space for educators to orient themselves to a large national network of colleagues interested in emphasizing ideas for enhancing the profession of teaching. Further, AACTE is a space where members can engage with peers and challenge the field to intrinsically assess our own vision of equitable education against the backdrop of shrinking funding, new educational policies, and emerging practices. 

  3. Why did you decide to enter the field of educator preparation? 
    I entered the field of education largely because it was my life’s calling. I am the daughter of two teachers. My mother and father both worked as K-12 instructors and administrators in various Florida public school systems for about 4 decades. Their dedication to educating and assisting children, some of whom had the highest needs, inspired my own professional trajectory. My “why” became even stronger after I entered the classroom as a professional teacher teaching U.S. history to middle school students. My students re-ignited my why and strengthened my desire to teach! Through teaching, I was given the chance to reach and teach students where I was influencing their learning while also impacting their personal development. Knowing that my calling stimulates, influences, and/or illuminates pre-service educators to consider how they might affect learners to fulfill their life’s calling is what permits me to stay in the profession.

  4. What’s been your favorite or most memorable moment of your career so far?
    My most memorable moment in teaching thus far has been a combination of experiences in teaching, research, and service. My parents set the tone for me. Dewe and Valerie Wilkerson emphasized the importance of creating a holistic instructional experience within educational learning environments. I explicate that vision by ensuring that I create a community for my students to learn and that I, in turn, learn from them as an iterative process. The mission of my work is also influenced by the research I conduct and disseminate to the field. Finally, I am convinced, like Marian Wright Edelman, that “service is the rent we pay for life.” Therefore, to remain grounded in the field, I am actively engaged in service to the profession. The aforementioned service allows me to unite justice and equity utilizing education as a vehicle to better my community. 

  5. What’s one thing — educator preparation-related or not — you learned in the last month?
    Given the circumstances under which we are living and learning, namely a global pandemic, I devote more time to being introspective. With the retirement of my mentor, Dr. Pamela “Sissi” Carroll, dean of the College of Community Innovation and Education at the University of Central Florida, who is also a celebrated former AACTE board member, I’ve learned that life is full of shifts. Furthermore, it is within these shifts that possibilities arise to generate a sense of self-assurance. I’ve been dreading her leaving UCF this month, but I know she’s not leaving me. What is most powerful about my response, or in this instance, my exercise in reflexivity, is that I am creating a professional practice for adapting to difficult changes. Her retirement has been more challenging for me to accept than I could have imagined, yet it would be dangerous to react in fear. As a result, with her unwavering and persistent support, I am shifting!

  6. What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
    Balance! The most difficult aspect of my job is balancing all I want to do and/or achieve. Many days, I begin my day with an ambitious to-do list. To be honest, I never get through that list. Instead of focusing on preserving balance, I’ve discovered that focusing on keeping happiness is more effective. I often ask myself, am I pleased with all I’ve accomplished? Happiness over balance allows me to feel content rather than nervously frightened that I haven’t achieved the millions of things I want to do, both personally and professionally.

  7. What advice would you give someone who is interested in working in this field?
    The one thing that comes to mind when I think of advice for folks interested in working in education comes from someone I had the chance to interview. Simply put, she urged that we (teachers, researchers, etc.) work with the community rather than for it. Her half-tongue-lashing, half-pep talk sparked the notion that our job necessitates some form of group, albeit collaborative, effort. Furthermore, as educators, we must annihilate the savior mentality of doing it alone. Rather, we must collaborate to create a value-added educational ecosystem.

  8. Who or what inspires you? 
    I am inspired by the many unsung heroes in my little community of Liberty City (Miami), FL. Mary Mcleod Bethune famously said that students must “enter to learn and depart to serve.” People in my neighborhood, unknowingly yet enthusiastically supported Dr. Bethune’s innovative perspective. My neighborhood was and continues to be a lovely Black enclave of support that has assisted my five sisters and myself in understanding and appreciating people. Our church was in the community, as were the Girl Scouts and the corner shop, which was run by a Black man at the time. I was very committed in my neighborhood because community heroes demanded that no matter where I went in life, I had to return to serve the community as it had served me.

  9. What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
    People are likely to be shocked to learn that, in addition to gospel music, I love country music. Dolly Parton is one of my favorite musicians. And if you’ve ever heard “Joleen,” “9-5,” or “Islands in the Stream,” you’ll understand why I love her work and like her music. She is a gifted writer with the capacity to evoke a wide range of emotions in us all via the rhythmic sounds of everyday instruments such as the piano, harmonica, and drums — creativity that simply makes you want to sing. 

  10. What is your favorite part about being a member of AACTE?
    My favorite feature of joining AACTE is knowing that it is a great community of educators where all of our intellectual contributions are valued. Perhaps a major factor that was featured in many of my remarks is community. Community is really important, and at AACTE, I am able to create community with professional colleagues who share innovative ideas for transforming education. Our dialogues may begin at the Annual Meeting, but they continue via Topical Action Groups and professional seminars and training that we may attend outside of the annual gathering. To be candid, my favorite aspect of being a member of AACTE is the opportunity to interact with top-tier experts in education! 

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Meghan Grenda

Director of Membership, AACTE

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