By Rachel Parker Dickerson
Jennifer Fullerton of St. Joseph Middle School was born to teach.
A Hendrix graduate, Fullerton double majored in music and elementary education. She is entering her 13th year of teaching at St. Joseph School and loves her job.
The oldest of four sisters, she grew up in a family that valued education.
"I was always showing my sisters how to do things. I liked being in charge," she said. "In high school I taught swim lessons. I thought, these kids are learning. I could be a teacher."
Growing up in Fayetteville, many of her childhood experiences were linked with learning.
"I don't remember any vacation that wasn't connected to education. I have a love of reading. Teaching seemed to fit all of that. We'd go to museums. We got treated with books. In the summer the biggest thing was to go to the library and get your summer reading program card."
She also has an aunt who is a teacher and who influenced her in her decision to become an educator, she said. When they get together, they "talk shop," she said.
When Fullerton attended college, she ended up with a previously unplanned double major because the school offered her a music scholarship. Later in life, that decision paid off with another surprise when she was hired at St. Joseph.
"I never really planned on teaching music, but St. Joseph needed a music teacher. I ended up loving it," she said. She taught music for her first 10 years at the school. Since then she has gone on to teach sixth grade language arts and religion.
"I teach kids the way I was taught and the way I would want my kids to be taught. I do expect a lot of them in and out of the classroom, but that's because I know they're capable. They will tell you I'm strict, but they'll also tell you I'm fun."
Fullerton also enjoys working at a school where she can share her faith with her students.
"I like being at St. Joseph because I can take my love of education and my love of faith and God, and they're combined. When we've done religion lessons, I've brought in my own personal experience - how I pray and how I live my faith. They can experience and relate to that."
She said she doesn't pine for the long days of summer vacation. Rather, she looks forward to going back to work in the fall.
"I don't feel like it's a job. I'm excited about things with my kids. When August comes around, it's exciting. I don't think a lot of people feel that way about their jobs. I'm blessed that I do," she said. "A lot of that is my great coworkers and great students."
Fullerton has a master's degree in gifted and talented education, which she earned at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2008. She said St. Joseph does not have a pull-out program, but all the teachers get to know their students and spend one-on-one time with them to make sure they are being challenged.
"My sisters and I all took GT classes growing up. It fascinates me," she said.
This summer she is spending two weeks teaching at Summer Laureate University for Youth, a summer camp for GT kids that allows teachers getting their GT licensure or master's to have a practicum setting. She also spent a week teaching science camp at St. Joseph.
Fullerton and her husband of three years, Micah, have a nine-month-old daughter, Mary Micah, and a dog, Bonnie Blue.