Esther Streed followed her heart to Central College. After 20 years teaching in northwest Iowa, she says, “It was just time to move to something different.” She started a master’s program at the University of South Dakota and considered becoming a school administrator. Through adjunct teaching, however, Streed discovered she loved working with college students and future teachers. She completed a doctorate from Drake University and came to teach at Central in 1998. “I’ve never looked back,” she says.
Streed wanted to be part of an education program where all graduates would be prepared, at least to some degree, to teach all students, including those needing special education. While a teacher, Streed devoted many years to improving services for children with disabilities — including her daughter, Angi. Because of the passion initiated with the birth of her daughter, she has traveled extensively, founded statewide organizations, backed the Americans with Disabilities Act — even dined in the White House. She served on the state board for a community-based advocacy group, the Arc, for 14 years and the Governor’s Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities for 12 years. Streed also cared for 18 foster children, nearly all with special needs, and adopted two of them. In 1992, she was named Iowa’s Foster Mother of the Year.
Streed has dedicated her career to helping people embrace others who are different. At Central, Streed says her joy has been seeing that dream realized among students and colleagues. Her students know “different equals different” comes first among the “Dr. Estherisms” they collect during Streed’s courses.
“Different equals different.”
– Esther Streed
Streed’s other career highlights include participating in an international think tank at Oxford University, visiting nearly all of Central’s study abroad sites and going to national conferences for the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) with her students. “We’ve presented at three conferences, which is an unbelievable honor,” Streed says. “The percentage of applicants who get to present is very, very small —and for undergrad programs, even more so.”
Keith Jones, professor of psychology, says Streed is a great teacher because she is genuine and committed to doing what benefits students. Streed sets high standards, but Jones says she doesn’t get hung up on being the best. “She just focuses on doing what is good,” Jones says, “and along the way, she has been one of the best.”
Streed also proves her practical wisdom among Central faculty, Jones says. When they both served as department chairs, Jones says Streed could bring perspective to group discussions in a single sentence, clarifying their purpose. “She’s a good one to sort things out with,” Jones says. “For me, she is a good big sister.” It doesn’t hurt that Streed also knows how to laugh at herself. “She takes the people she serves and the work she does very seriously, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously,” he says. “She’s a good egg.”
During the past 17 years, Streed’s favorite change at Central has been the addition of the Roe Center. “This is an awesome building,” she says. “I felt really, really privileged to be department chair at the time that we were making the transition from our cramped little quarters in the library to this amazing facility.” Plus, Streed says she loves seeing many plaques every time she walks in. “Every one of those plaques represents people who really appreciate what we do in education,” she says. “That’s just really delightful for me.”
When she retires, Streed says she will find new ways to be involved in statewide programs and service. “For me, retirement does not mean not working,” she says. While Streed doesn’t mind abandoning her commute from Des Moines, she says she will miss every piece of teaching at Central. “I love what I do,” Streed says. “I totally enjoy my students, and I enjoy teaching. I’m going to miss it — I really am.”