A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Helen Fuller

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Helen Fuller

Helen Fuller of Valparaiso has long been one to embrace life’s changes, look toward the future, and find ways to better herself and those around her. Born in England before moving to the United States and growing up in Hobart, she seemed to carry this philosophy from the start. Her jump between continents foreshadowed the way she now approaches life, and how she teaches her students to approach life as well. Fuller has been teaching English since 1993 and is currently at Fegely Middle School teaching college and career exploration to eighth-graders for the first time this year.

“I have taught English for most of my career at Portage, so this is a nice change,” Fuller said. “I started out at Portage High School in 1993 and came to Fegely in 2011. I really enjoy eighth-grade kids.”

Fuller chose to study education so that her post-college career path would be well-defined and planned.

“I wanted to know in a concrete way what job I would apply for after graduation,” Fuller said. “I was an avid reader as a kid, and literature and writing classes fit my interests and talents, so English seemed like a good fit.”

For Fuller, it’s the open flow of ideas and conceptual discussions that made a career in the classroom so appealing, particularly when it came to the subjects of English and literature.

“I never liked babysitting or playing with other people's kids, so it was not that part of education that called to me,” Fuller said. “I have always enjoyed the discussion of ideas and the study of the human condition, both of which are at the center of good literature.”

Though the list of mentors she’s had in her life is long and comprised of a myriad of positive role models, Fuller notes that her most influential teacher has been motherhood. Being a mother to her two daughters has taught her lessons that make for a happy and fulfilling life; lessons fueled by the pursuit of lifelong learning.

“In my pursuit to be a strong mother for my children, I have learned to ask for help, to recognize both my successes and my failures, and to get up and try again, even when I am exhausted,” Fuller said. “Most importantly, however, I have learned that empathy and compassion – especially for oneself – are two of the most important traits and that there can be more than one right answer to a situation.” 

Fuller seeks to learn from every person that comes into her life, whether they be a student, a colleague, or a stranger on the street. Her people-oriented approach to life is fitting, considering that her favorite part of her job is the relationships that stem from interaction with others.

“This includes my fellow teachers – teachers are awesome – school leaders, and especially the students and their families,” Fuller said. “It is a privilege to work in an environment where we are always growing, adjusting, and helping each other to be our best selves.”

Fuller encourages her students, and everyone she meets, to embrace the power of “yet,” and never stop working to become the best version of themselves by being open to learning from the experiences of others.

“I really like the idea of the power of ‘yet,’” Fuller said. “I believe you should never feel as though you have to have it all figured out at the same time. We are each a work in progress, and should accept ourselves as such.”

One way Fuller has embraced this concept is by embracing the sport of running along with other outdoor activities. She has been a dedicated runner for over 20 years and has clearly translated the sport’s many lessons in discipline and hard-earned progress to her daily life.

“I’ve been sidelined with an injury for over a year now, but I still consider myself a runner. I am confident that I will be able to get back to it with a little patience and perseverance,” Fuller said. “I also enjoy hiking and kayaking and being outdoors at all times of the year, but I especially enjoy the changing of the seasons.”

Fuller earned her administration degree last year and is currently looking toward the future and planning her next career move. She’s got her eye on what’s next and is intent on chasing after her goals, despite the setbacks of the recent pandemic.

“I am really tired of this pandemic, and I'm hoping 2021 brings with it the opportunity for us all to be healthy and happy and run around doing whatever we want, regardless of the proximity of other humans,” Fuller said.

No matter where life takes her next, one thing is certain: Fuller will embrace life’s changes wholeheartedly, always keeping the focus on creating her best self, knowing that every small step in the right direction brings her closer to the finish line. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” Fuller said. “I really like this quote because it reminds me that we can all be whatever we want, we just have to have the courage to begin the journey.”