Beth Fuller, 2012 Ky Elementary School Teacher of the Year

| December 8, 2011
Gov. Steve Beshear and Beth Fuller.

Beth Fuller with Gov. Steve Beshear.

Spending hours surrounded by a group of hyperactive eight- and nine-year-olds isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it is Beth Fuller’s forte – and her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

The third grade teacher at J.B. Atkinson Academy for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Portland was just honored with the 2012 Kentucky Elementary School Teacher of the Year award. The accolade was earned because of her obvious passion for and skill at teaching, as well as the unconventional tactics she uses in the classroom.

Instead of desk chairs, Fuller’s students sit on exercise balls, which were donated by School Wishes, a program dedicated to supporting local K-12 schools. “I’m always willing to learn and try new things,” said Fuller, a graduate of Bellarmine University and Indiana University  Southeast. “I use exercise balls instead of chairs because I find it helps kids focus since they have to sit up straight.”

Fuller works primarily with elementary school kids who struggle with reading comprehension and writing efficiency. She has helped her students improve their skills through another unconventional strategy, the Ruff Ruff Read to the Dog Program.

“We partnered with the Paws with Purpose organization,” Fuller explained. “The kids will read to their dog, and a lot of what we do in class will have some sort of dog theme. The kids just really need to be motivated to want to read and they’re doing it for the dogs and they’re becoming better for their dog.”

Beth Fuller.Fuller’s unique strategies are evidence of the philosophy she has adopted as an educator: “Just don’t ever give up on anyone who comes into your classroom. I love watching the kids grow and learn and thinking about how far they’ve come and watching them become better writers. Every child can learn but in a different way. You can get progress from them and help them learn if you believe in them and they believe in you.”

In addition to educating her third grade students, Fuller, who has been at the school for nine years, has become teacher to several of her colleagues. She also mentors students and student teachers from the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville and helps other teachers at J.B. Atkinson with instructional practices.

“I have a really strong passion for my job and love what I do,” she said. “I think in order to be a good teacher you have to love what you do because it takes a lot of time outside of the classroom. I’ll always be willing to learn and grow and become better and learn from other colleagues, too.”

Beth Fuller accepting her award.

Beth Fuller accepting her award.

One teacher Fuller credits for developing her love for teaching is her former choir teacher, Larry Pittman, whom she had while a student at Male High School.

“He was a teacher who I loved and I loved going to his class,” Fuller said. “You have to create that love of learning. I think about him a lot when I’m teaching.”

In less than a decade, Fuller has become an example of excellence among her associates, young and old, yet she remains humble about the acclaim. So, it’s not surprising that she’s considering using some of the $3,000 she received with the Teacher of the Year award on her prized pupils.

“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with the money,” Fuller said. “My sister was teasing me that I’ll probably do something for my kids in class.”

Contact writer Ashley Anderson at or 502.498.2051.

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Ashley Anderson

Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).

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