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A second grade teacher from Chesapeake is the 2022 Virginia Teacher of the Year. Daphne Fulson from Portlock Primary School has 12 years of experience as a teacher. She studied Spanish Linguistics at Universidad Veritas in San José, Costa Rica. She spoke to WHRV’s Paul Bibeau about the honor, and the challenges teachers face today.

Paul Bibeau: Daphne Fulson, thank you so much for talking to us.

Daphne Fulson: Absolutely! It's a pleasure to be here.

PB: How did you find out you were teacher of the year and what was your initial reaction?

DF: The seven finalists and myself, we all travel to the governor's mansion in Richmond and Governor Northam, he went through and said amazing things about each of the finalists. And then he announced it on the podium and I just covered my face in complete shock and disbelief. It was amazing.

PB: What's the most challenging thing that teachers face during 2021 as we're progressing through this pandemic?

DF: So that is a loaded question. If you were not, if you didn't put the pandemic in the year 2021 in there, I would tell you that the hardest thing about teaching for me is knowing that I kind of relinquish how I impact the kids when they leave and get on the bus. I know I can love on them from the time they walk into my classroom and to the time that I put them on the bus and then I send them home and I'm like, "Oh, I hope somebody at home is loving on them like I'm loving on them and pouring into them like I do and and telling them that they can - like they get that affirmation at school." That scares me sometimes, and that is a challenge for me. But also our workload. Our workload is so heavy right now, and sometimes we have things that are put on our plate and then we have this expectation that we have to do it all flawlessly. And I don't think teachers are stopping to take care of themselves like we really should. Like simple things like eating. Did you drink some water today? Did you make it to the restroom today? Those little basic things I think are being forgotten because we have so much to do.

PB: What don't most people, people who aren't teachers, what do they not understand about the world of teaching?

DF: One of the biggest things that I always tell people is we don't get brains that walk into our classroom. Bodies with emotions and feelings and hearts walk into our classroom. They come in with schemas and previous experiences and trauma. And they come in maybe hungry. We don't just receive brains that come in ready to learn. We receive actual human beings that need to be taught and loved on holistically. And I don't think that a lot of people recognize that teachers are our friends or our sisters or moms or aunties. We're tias, we're tios, we're abuelitas. We're the whole family and counselors and we wear many, many hats. We're not just here to educate and teach to a test. We're making sure that our kiddos are ready to interact in society and be contributing citizens that go out and be productive knowing what they're fully capable of.

PB: What's your message to your fellow teachers out there?

DF: Do not give up. You are doing so great. Please stop and look at yourself in the mirror and affirm where you are. Affirm what you have done. And I encourage all educators right now to go back to when you got your degree and you got your certification. We all had to create our why. And although it changes as the years change, but we all had a why for why we wanted to be in the classroom. And we all know it wasn't the money! I'm going to be 100 percent. Nobody comes into this field to be rich. So I encourage all of the educators when it gets tough and you're crying and you're looking for a shoulder to lean on. And we've all been there to stop and think about your why and how much the kids need you and what's at stake if you leave the classroom right now.

PB: Daphne Fulson, thank you so much for talking to me.

DF: Absolutely. It was a pleasure.

Note: Chesapeake Public Schools is a member of Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Association which owns the license of WHRO.