Statistical modeling is a core component of statistical thinking and has been identified by several countries as a curricular goal for secondary education. However, many secondary teachers have minimal preparation for teaching this topic. The goal of this research study is to learn about teachers’ perceptions of the role statistical models play in statistical inference and how these perceived purposes affect their reasoning about statistical models and inference. Problem-solving interviews were conducted with four in-service teachers who had recently taught a modeling and simulation-based introductory statistics course. Teachers’ responses suggest they may not see modeling variation as the primary purpose of statistical modeling and instead substitute two other purposes: making a decision and replicating the data collection process. Suggestions for how to build on teachers’ transitional conceptions and refocus attention on modeling variation are discussed.