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Regent Alum Wins Teacher of the Year, Hopes to Be “Remembered with a Smile” by Students

Dr. Deborah Fuge (SOE ‘19) always dreamt of being a teacher. There was never a doubt that she would work with children and help inspire them to enjoy learning. She never saw herself winning the recognition of Teacher of the Year at Three Oaks Elementary School in Virginia Beach. But her gratefulness and humility to have received the honor speak loudly of her character, hard work and dedication to her students, and honor for God. “I didn’t really expect it, but I’m proud that I was [chosen]. I just keep working and focus on the children and what I can do to reach them,” Fuge says. She is using her skillset, professional influence, and personal goals to personify Christian Leadership to Change the World.

Clear Path to a Lifelong Dream

Fuge says she knew her entire life that she wanted to become a teacher. In high school, she worked at a daycare center, and after college she began teaching second grade. Eventually, she moved to first grade; there, she found a sweetspot. For Fuge, there is something uniquely special about working with children at a young age: “I love seeing the sparkle in their eyes … They love school at that age and have so much fascination.”

What does she say empowers her ability to teach children? Prayer. She asked God to put a halt to her path as a teacher if it was not what He desired for her. “God always wanted me to do this,” she says. “I just floated right into it. It’s been a straight path; there’s never been any roadblocks.”

Teaching the Teacher

The world of education has proven to be wonderful place for Fuge to learn and grow. Part of that journey has included earning her doctorate from Regent University in Educational Psychology. By working with one of the Regent professors, she was inspired to adapt her teaching style to the benefit of her children. “I used to think kids should never know the teaching process; now I’m all about kids making choices,” she says. Fuge even holds her own student conferences where she allows the students to give their input into their educational experience. She says that this excites the students, who tell her, “I love how grown-ups listen to me.” The addition of interactive planning and teaching has brought great joy to Fuge as well. “I love being one of the first people to help them make decisions, good ones. [We] always look to make good choices and consider how this affects their future.”

Virtual Challenge Accepted

Another opportunity that proved to be vital for Fuge in today’s world of virtual learning was her work on a digital learning series with WHRO. Fuge learned of the program through a Regent connection. She recognized a great chance to reach out and teach kids in a new capacity and to tell her own students that they would be able to see her on air. Each educator involved in the learning series was tasked with planning a lesson under 13 minutes long.

Challenge accepted! Fuge embraced the opportunity to get creative in making her materials. And God made a clear pathway for her to guide and influence students on a greater level. She says the experience propelled her ability to find new and exciting ways to interact with her students.

Fuge reflects on the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly instantaneous need for virtual learning. While it has been a stretch for everyone on many levels, she has sought to develop a mindset of “opportunities.”  

“… It has encouraged me to find new ways to reach the children,” Fuge says. “I’ve had a lot more communication with parents because they’re actually seeing what their kids are doing well and what they’re struggling with … there’s always going to be challenges … flexibility is a key teacher trait.” Of course, even with the ability and fortitude to creatively connect with students virtually, Fuge is quick to note that nothing compares to the in-person interaction that she loves between her and her students.

“I hope they remember me with a smile; that they were loved and that their teacher was proud of them.”

Relationships that Leave a Smile

Building relationships with parents and students over the years has been especially rewarding. She says that her students have “…helped me learn about all the differences that they and their families bring into teaching. Encountering different lifestyles [has] helped me learn patience … They’ve taught me joy in the way they interact with the world. It keeps me young at heart.” Likewise, she says the parents have taught her the power of teamwork: “Parents have something to bring to the table in a different way than I can in teaching the children.”

What do you add to your resume after 33 years in the field of education? In recent years, Fuge ventured into a whole new chapter with instructing adults as an adjunct professor for Regent’s School of Education. Wherever she serves, Fuge continues to influence her students just as she has been transformed by them and her time in education. Above all, she hopes the faces she has taught have been positively impacted and that her youngest students, especially, will think of her with fond memories. “I hope they remember me with a smile; that they were loved and that their teacher was proud of them.”

ABOUT REGENT UNIVERSITY’S SCHOOL OF EDUCATION

The School of Education is ranked among the Top 5 Best Online Graduate Education Programs in Virginia by U.S. News & World Report. The school also has earned an impressive reputation for its 865 alumni Teachers of the Year. The school offers challenging, leading-edge online degrees including Master of Education; Educational Specialist, Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Ph.D. in Education, certificates, endorsements, and a Career Switcher program.

By Abby Trivett – Student Writer. Abby is the Senior Editor for The Daily Runner. She is earning her M.A. in Journalism from the School of Communication and the Arts at Regent University.

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