Richey Academy Teacher of the Year Helps Students see Endless Possibilities in Themselves
Jokeshua Fuller, who has been named Teacher of the Year for Camelot Education’s Richey Academy in Houston, said one of the reasons she works as hard as she does is to see students, from a background similar to her own, learn to have a vision for their lives.
“I really enjoy teaching students alternative ways of thinking; to enable them to see that there are endless possibilities for their lives. I’m not shy about communicating to them that I come from a background similar to theirs – that it wasn’t easy for me growing up,” Fuller said. “When I see pride growing in them, when they start to have a sense of fulfillment, it makes what we do at Richey Academy all the more important.”
Fuller said many of the students who come to Richey Academy have suffered deprivations in their lives. It’s important, she noted, that they see themselves in her and can imagine how their own lives can blossom and change; education is the key that opens doors. “I learn from them too,” said Fuller. “Some of these kids have experienced really difficult things in their lives, and they remind me to cherish the time I have with my own children and other people on a daily basis. I recall one young man who came to us, and I saw he was going to be a challenge by the way he greeted me. I always shake the hands of my students on their first day, but this young man just looked me up and down and took his seat. He wouldn’t take my hand, but I didn’t put the spotlight on him. Then, my students began talking to him and including him in their interactions with one another, and gradually he began to soften.”
“One day, we were all participating in a group activity – putting different origami patterns together,” said Fuller. “Some of the students took a couple of days to finish theirs. He finished his pattern in five minutes. It was the first time I saw him smile. From that day forward, he began to open up more and more. He began shaking my hand. He would hug me. He advanced beyond his negative reputation and saw the possibilities for his own life. It was beautiful.”
Richey Academy is a transitional school, that partners with the Spring Independent School District, to provide educational and behavioral supports for students who have experienced disciplinary violations at their home campuses. Richey Academy’s teaching environment gives students the behavioral tools and strategies to help them make decisions different from the ones that led them to their suspension or expulsion. When the students return to their home campuses, they are prepared to enjoy an education free of behavioral referrals or incidents.
Richey Academy has become an integral part of the local school district. Ms. Fuller has been teaching middle school math and physical education there for a year and a half. Regional Director Cory Thames said she really understands how to reach her students.
“She’s excelled since she came to us. She’s definitely a team player. She understands coaching; how to have her students follow her lead,” Thames said. “All of our teachers and staff members are aware of how important it is to be able to accomplish that and to stay connected to the local school district. We work in close partnership with the district to nurture the students we teach.”
As for receiving the teacher of the year accolade, Fuller calls it a humbling experience.
Fuller said, “I always do my best to serve the students, but being recognized for doing something that I love to do, that I’m fully committed to, is very, very humbling. Being honored in this way is motivating and shows that our school leadership really cares about our efforts. At times, it feels like I’m struggling. Being named teacher of the year is extremely encouraging. Beyond that, we encourage and support each other, and that’s something I feel is important in education; that the teachers hold each other up. It’s one of the things I love about Camelot Education; we’re a true family.”