Teaching to the fullest: BHS Elementary teacher named districtwide elementary teacher of the year

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, December 6, 2023

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Whether it’s singing a song, helping a student learn to read or winning an award, Deanna Fuller always makes a grand entrance. This year, she was chosen to receive the districtwide Elementary Teacher of the Year award. 

Fuller started as a teacher at Chambers County School District straight out of college. She taught at Five Points Elementary School for the first 25 years of her career. 

“I started working straight out of Auburn,” Fuller said. “They hired me before I even got my certificate. I had to take a personal day to graduate because I started teaching third grade at Five Points.”

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After 25 years of teaching, Five Points Elementary School closed, and Fuller had to make a big move. With the consolidation, Fuller was placed at Bob Harding Shawmut Elementary School in Valley. The transition was a scary one for Fuller.

Fuller said she had taught multiple grades for many students when she was at Five Points. Because it was a very small school, some grades were combined for certain years. Whereas BHS Elementary has several classes for each grade. 

“It was scary, but fun,” Fuller said. “Because you always want to see what you’re able to do in a different school you know, and so that part was a little bit challenging, but very rewarding.”

With Five Points being a small community, it’s no wonder Fuller became very close with the school’s families and community. 

“That was my home,” Fuller said. “I knew everything about that place, all the people. And a lot of the people — I knew I’ve been at their homes. They’ve been to things in my life that was important. They’ve become like family to me.”

Fuller remembered helping the students with chorus and musicals. As an avid singer herself, she has always tried to find creative ways to include the arts in the elementary school.

Fuller also worked with the Accelerated Reader (AR) program. The school hosted trips, games and prizes to help engage the students in reading. Fuller said they even had family reading nights, which she organized.

Students’ families would come by after school. She said there would be s’mores and snacks while they all read together. 

“We just did crazy stuff,” Fuller said, fondly. “Just whatever it took to get the kids to do what we wanted them to do, which was read.”

Other times, Fuller has bought toys and props like plastic bugs to use for a math lesson that keeps students engaged and interested. 

Fuller said since receiving the award she has had an outpouring of support from former students. She said she thinks it’s an experience that every teacher should have as teaching can sometimes be a thankless job. 

“We give all of our time, but we give 100% of your heart and your mind,” Fuller said. “It’s the night time when you lay down at night and you say your prayers, and you think about some of these kids that might not have a warm bed.”

Fuller said a huge motivation is always seeing the progress that students’ reading have throughout the year. But the main reason she keeps teaching the students of Chambers County is that she just enjoys being around the kids. 

“If this job was not fun, I would not have made it. I cannot stay in a mundane, boring job day after day,” Fuller said. “I can’t do that.”

When asked what advice she would give to an aspiring teacher, Fuller fell back on the old adage, “If you love your job, you never work a day in your life.” She said it’s important that each person finds the subject and grade level that suits them best though.

“When you land where you want to be, just give it 110% every day, that’s all I know to say,” she said.