Hall of fame educator

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Whitefish Middle School Assistant Principal Jackie Fuller is a 2019 inductee to the University of Montana Western Education Hall of Fame. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

Jackie Fuller is a Bulldog through and though.

In Whitefish, she’s enjoyed a nearly three-decade career within Bulldog academics and athletics, winning five state championships as a volleyball coach and serving in a variety of roles, including as assistant principal at both the high school and middle school.

She is also a University of Montana Western Bulldog, part of a family tradition, and extremely proud of it.

“My dad went there, I went there, my husband went there, my two boys graduated from there,” Fuller says. “It’s a great place, they’ve got a great educational experience. I think it’s the best opportunity for people to go where there’s going to be small classes, a community that embraces you and you come away with a degree that is worth a lot.”

UMW recently announced Fuller as a 2019 inductee to their Education Hall of Fame, along with John Wilkerson, Bill Schlepp and Myles Carpenter.

Fuller will be honored during UMW’s Night of Stars banquet on April 27.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in K-12 physical education and secondary business education from UMW in 1984, Fuller taught business and coached basketball, track and volleyball in Shelby until 1988, winning coach of the year honors in 1988 after leading her volleyball team to a state championship.

Fuller joined Whitefish High School in 1991 as a physical education teacher, athletic trainer, and volleyball and track coach.

As volleyball coach, Fuller won five state championships, was named coach of the year as many times and was inducted into the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

She moved up to administration as the WHS assistant principal in 2011 and moved to the same position at Whitefish Middle School in 2017. Fuller received her master’s degree in educational leadership from Rocky Mountain College in 2015.

Since the beginning, Fuller says coaching and working with athletes was what piqued her interest about UMW.

“I went to a college fair at Anaconda High and I went by the Western booth, and they were encouraging the athletic training part, and coaching, and I’m like, ‘I think I could do this,’” she recalls.

“Being involved with athletics gave me the outlet to meet a bunch of people. And then the athletic training, because I like the area of medicine, seeing injuries and being able to diagnose. Being around the action. It was really hard after I stopped being the athletic trainer in Whitefish to get off the sideline.”

In her career she’s played a variety of roles, working as a teacher, coach, trainer and administrator, among others, but Fuller says the classroom and the court is where she felt the most comfortable.

While she still gets to work with students at WMS, she says she misses the daily contact she got as a teacher.

“I miss the classroom. I miss really developing those relationships with those kids,” she says. “I think as a teacher, you have a great opportunity to touch somebody’s life every day. As an administrator, you’ve got to find ways to get out there more and do it.”

She also notes how education has changed since she earned her degree.

On one hand, the shift to more project-based learning methods has been a plus, and she’s impressed with the way students take to more individualized learning styles.

“Our kids are identifying their own learning and figuring out, ‘How do I learn? What style is best for me?’ They’re digging in deeper to projects, you’ve got a lot of hands-on things, especially at the high school level,” she says.

“I think the teachers we have here are just amazing, the work they put in, the care they have — it’s unbelievable,” she added.

She’s also watched the rise of social media in her students’ lives, which has been a monumental change.

“That’s one of the biggest things that I probably deal with and get frustrated with, the social media end of it and what these kids are doing with phones,” she says. “We talk to them about the power you have in that phone and what it can do to you and others. They’re addicted to them, they’re truly addicted to their phones. And it’s not real, the stuff they’re doing is not real, but then they start saying things, accepting friendships that they shouldn’t be accepting, and doing things that are not good.” she says.

While she can’t rule out coaching again in the future, Fuller would like to use her coaching and leadership talents in another way down the road.

The next step for her, she says, will hopefully be a new way of coaching and teaching kids.

“My ultimate goal after I’m done with this is to go around and be a motivational speaker, to talk to kids about understanding your role, being a team player, enjoying every minute because you’ll never get this back,” she says. “What experience do I have? I’ve coached, I’ve taught, I’m a parent, I work with a lot of kids, and I just think sometimes we’re making the path for their success too easy, and they need to understand what a struggle is, and how to face that struggle on their own.”

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