Donald Fuller: Teacher Spotlight

FulllerWe are pleased to feature “Migration in Global Context” participant Donald Fuller as our November Teacher Spotlight!
Donald A. Fuller (@historyeducator) teaches 7th & 8th Grade Social Studies and serves as Social Studies Department Head and Technology Coordinator for Youngstown City Schools.  Fuller has his B.S. in Education/Integrated Social Studies and Information Technology Certificate from Youngstown State University.  He regularly teaches 7th Grade World History and 8th Grade American History.  In his own words: “I was born and raised in Youngstown Ohio; I attended Springfield Local High School in New Middletown, Ohio.  I had a rough time throughout middle and high school.  It was the exceptional teachers that have helped me along the way that geared my decision to become an educator.  I am happily married to my wife of three years, Mara, and we have two fur babies named Henry and Blizzard.”   
What inspired you to become a teacher?  
Without the help of the many great teachers throughout my educational career, I would not be where I am today.  This include college Professors as well.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher? Biggest rewards?
Teaching in an inner city school, one of the biggest challenges in classroom management.  It is hard to get students to see the value of an education.  They often see no future for themselves, you have to find what drives the students and gear the lessons towards that.  This could be shoes, clothes, anything you can use to motivate the students to be interested the topic being taught.
The biggest reward is seeing your students do well.  This could be in the classroom, on the football field, or basketball court.  I try to attend as many athletic events as I can.  It is priceless to see the smile on a child’s face when they do well at something, makes the daily struggle worth every minute.
What are your favorite ways to incorporate historical thinking strategies in your courses?
I like to use a lot of primary and secondary source documents in my classes.  It gives students a chance to work with unfamiliar items, and moves them out of their comfort zone a little.  If they can learn to interpret these they will be set for whatever comes their way.
Describe the Project-Based Learning (PBL) project you are designing for the “Migration in Global Context” Institute.  
We are using community gardens as a way to teach students about various cultures.  We are also using them to show how we can become united as a community by such a simple thing, gardening.  Students must choose a culture other than their own.  They must create a “garden” showing various aspects of the culture.  This could be clothing, language, foods, native plants & animals, etc.
What are your experiences with cross-curricular collaboration? What tips do you have for teachers interested in getting started?
I have collaborated with other Social Studies teachers as well as ELA and science teachers.  It is very rewarding to do cross-curricular lessons.  It also takes the burden of planning a lesson and grading off of just one teacher.  You can both work together.  
Many teachers, especially new teachers are often afraid of asking to collaborate in a cross-curricular lesson, never be afraid to ask for anything, especially help!  You will become a better teacher to take wisdom from others and adapt it to your own classroom.
Do you have other favorite lessons or activities that you would like to share?
My favorite lesson is on the Civil War; I like to get local re-enactors to come and set up a camp for students to go out and view.  It is one thing to learn in a classroom, but to be totally immersed in the time period really gives students a whole new way to look at the war, and those fighting it.
What advice would you give a student interested in becoming a teacher?
Although you may hear people talking about becoming a teacher for summers off, teaching is a never-ending job.  You are always planning, tweaking, collecting data, and preparing for the next school year, it can get overwhelming.  Make sure you breathe, and take time for yourself. Teaching is also a profession where you need to constantly evolve, and adapt to new techniques and standards, if you are not willing to grow and change as an educator, you will run into problems.  Also be willing to always learn and better yourself, this will pay off big time for both you and your students!
Thank you Don!!