4 minute read

Tyran W. Butler

A Gainesville educator says life is the best teacher

A local educator says the best lessons for success come not just from the classroom, but from our own unique life experiences.

“Lean in to what comes to you if there is good that you can do and lessons to be learned. We always learn from our experiences. I encourage people to embrace new and/or unexpected ones.”

This sage advice is shared by Tyran W. Butler, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs for Career and Technical Education at Gainesville’s Santa Fe College.

Speaking from experience, she said being open to receiving what comes your way is valuable, even if it does not appear to be so at the time.

“Never did I expect to be in my current role. The plan I had for myself was different. However, the plan that is being worked is good.”

Her career journey began when she graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Elementary Education. At that time, she was awarded a Virgil Hawkins scholarship to UF’s College of Law, but after a semester knew it wasn’t what she wanted.

“On a whim, I took a teaching job in Lake City (for a semester) and ended up there for several years.”

She went on to obtain her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, followed by a Ph.D. in Special Education, the latter earned on a UF Alumni Fellowship.

She began her employment at Santa Fe in 2012, hired as the Director of the Education Programs Department. She served in that role until February 2002, when she was promoted to her current position where she supervises all non-health science career and technical programs including the Perkins Programs, Secondary Career Pathways, and the Career and Job Placement Center.

While she believes her experience and credentials made her the best candidate for the position she now holds, it’s not all that is needed. “One of the most critical skills needed to serve in this role is a genuine desire to help people in our community access what Santa Fe College has to offer. I also believe that good communication and collaboration skills are critical in this role. Nothing is done in a silo.”

It is also important to focus on students and community.

“They should also come with a willingness to keep students at the center of their decisions and a willingness to collaborate with others to make that happen.”

Touching on her philosophy that life is full of lessons, she said she has benefited from leadership examples in her career that were both great and notso-great.

“I have always strived to learn something from every situation.”

When she was impressed with a leader’s behavior or actions, she would ask why they did what they did and try to emulate that. When she felt disappointed by a leader’s behavior, she would ask herself if she would be prepared to do something different.

“When I feel strongly enough about someone’s leadership to speak about it, my answer has to be yes, I am prepared to do something different. My inability to sit back and see important work undone gives me the courage to lead and do it.”

Some of her biggest challenges she has encountered as a leader include those who aren’t always focused on the “main thing”: a system that doesn’t always work for all people and limited resources to accomplish enormous tasks.

She credits her family and mentors with having the greatest impact on her journey to success. Her grandmother was one of her biggest supporters, always willing to do anything to ensure that she had what she needed to thrive.

Encouragement also came from UF Professor Dr. Simon O. Johnson, who became a mentor. He was her Science Methods professor as Associate Professor of Science Education at the time. Simon and his wife, Verna, founded the Caring and Sharing Learning School in Gainesville, which accepted its first class in 1998.

“His office was a haven for me in the College of Education. He taught me overtly and covertly. Oftentimes, when I am feeling especially challenged, I visualize Dr. Johnson’s smile and recall his words and I think about what my grandmother would say in instances when I feel like my back is against the wall.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown Butler the importance of people helping and accepting help from others, how everyone is connected, how much everyone relies on each other, and how everyone has been challenged in ways they are unaccustomed to being challenged.

“I think that 2020 had an impact on everyone. I can’t imagine that there is a person in the world who has been untouched. Having to quarantine is something that most people have never had to experience. My hope is that we gain a greater appreciation for people and our collective interdependence. My hope is also that we have increased compassion for one another as we try to stay safe and sane.”


- Tyran W. Butler