Podcast Recap: The Great Assist! Episode 4—A Conversation with Brian K. Butler

Inside the Treehouse Podcast Recap, Episode 04, The Great Assist, A Conversation with Brian K. Butler

Here’s your chance to get to know Brian K. Butler a little better. During episode 4 of Inside the Treehouse, Solution Tree CEO Jeff Jones sat down with Butler to talk about his educational journey from struggling student to top-notch administrator. 

Brian Butler has had an illustrious career as an educator—and he’s still going strong. Faced with challenges in his own education as a child, he refused to be lost in the system. With the assistance of important people in his life, he rose to the top, becoming a professional basketball player and then a teacher, coach, and school administrator, in which role he led Mason Crest Elementary School in Virginia to become Solution Tree’s first DuFour Award-winning PLC. The titles of author, speaker, and mentor round out the list of his accomplishments.

Where It All Began

Butler’s passion for education comes from his past. He likes to say that his pathway to success started with his grandparents, who were humble sharecroppers. When Brian’s dad wanted to go to college, his grandparents eagerly sent him on his way, despite it meaning they would lose their right to sharecrop their land. Breaking his family’s generational cycle of poverty, Butler’s dad earned his degree, becoming a reading teacher and eventually a principal.

While Butler’s siblings were successful in school, Brian struggled, particularly with reading. Luckily, he had an interventionist at home to help. Looking back, Butler attributes his educational beginnings to his grandparents’ courageous decision and his dad’s teaching background. Without these two things, he wouldn’t be where or who he is today. 

The Classroom and the Court

Butler went to Catholic school from first through eighth grade. It was in high school that his athletic abilities began to shine, which landed him a college scholarship to play basketball at George Washington University. 

After his college basketball days were over, Butler crossed the pond to play professionally in Europe. Those dreams were cut short when, after only one season, he hurt his knee.

Post-basketball, Butler came back to the United States in search of a job in radio or TV, since his undergraduate degree was in communications. While looking, he began to substitute teach and loved it. Realizing his new calling, he became certified as a physical education teacher and later earned a master’s degree in school counseling. After a fulfilling run as a counselor, Butler earned his administrative endorsement and moved into administration.  

From PLC Newcomer to Polished Principal

With several years of leadership under his belt, Butler took an assistant principal position in Fairfax County, Virginia. It was there that he first heard the term PLC. Collaboration, teamwork, open communication—it all made sense to Butler. In fact, it reminded him a lot of his basketball days. 

While at a training conference, he met Rick and Becky DuFour. After approaching them and exchanging contact information, Rick personally reached out to Brian to become an associate, and he’s been one ever since.

The crown jewel of Butler’s career, at least as an administrator, was his time at Mason Crest Elementary. A brand-new school, Butler was able to make it his own. Bringing a few key staff members from his previous school, Butler built a solid PLC culture all about the kids. There was no “you” or “me.” Everything was “we,” and it was all in the best interest of the students. Their model was built around collaboration and collective teacher efficacy, and it worked. 

At Mason Crest, Butler challenged the notion of giftedness. Instead of labeling kids, he and his team acknowledged that every kid was gifted in some way. It was under Brian’s leadership that Mason Crest Elementary was recognized for its hard work and received Solution Tree’s first annual DuFour Award in 2016.

Wise Words for Today’s Educator 

These days, Butler spends a great deal of his time consulting, researching, and writing. Under today’s challenging circumstances, Butler has some sage advice. He reminds educators that it’s important to stay the course. In uncertain times, educators can’t fall back into old, traditional practices. Butler believes that collaboration is key. Instead of retreating to isolationism, this is when educators should rely on each other the most. With the stress that 2020 has brought, Butler hopes educators won’t burn out. Leaning on teams and the school as a whole can help reduce some of the pressure. At the end of the day, he urges educators to remember why they do what they do. Being there for students and ensuring they learn at the highest level can’t be achieved in isolation. 

Subscribe and listen to the full episode on your favorite podcast app.

Tune In to Our Next Episode

Episode 5 of Inside the Treehouse will be available on December 4, and will feature Sharon Kramer. As the first member of her family to graduate from high school, Kramer went on to become a pioneering voice for priority schools. Tune in to hear her story.

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Here's some awesome bio info about me! Short codes are not allowed, but perhaps we can work something else out.

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