Editor’s Note: This article was published shortly before Mr. Fullmer’s passing earlier in 2019.
Teachers are very vital members of any community. Think back through your educational journey; odds are, some teachers helped encourage, inspire, support, and shape you into the man or woman you are today. Perhaps, the most significant impact a teacher can have on an individual is being a person of consistency and dependability. When life is continuously changing, and people are, relationally, always coming in and out, sometimes it is nice to know that a positive authority figure is still there, year after year. I (Anthony Crosby) believe this is the kind of impact today’s guest has left on multiple generations of Elko High School students.
Today, we’re joined by Mr. Allan Fullmer. Mr. Fullmer has worked as a teacher of both English and Social Studies over his twenty-four-year tenure at Elko High School. Alongside his wife, Deb who has worked as Special Education/English teacher at the school, Mr. Fullmer has been heavily involved with the campus over his decades there, teaching and leading organizations such as the Sunshine Club which sends flowers to members of the community when they enter certain life milestones.
To this day, Mr. Fullmer continues to shape young minds in the same classroom he started in, years ago, despite being diagnosed with an unfortunate sickness, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Though the disease has affected aspects of his body, such speech, this has not stopped or slowed him down from coming into work every day to do what he truly loves- building up his students. Therefore, we’re very excited and honored to have Mr. Fuller joining us this week.
Twenty-four-years is quite the teaching stint, Mr. Fullmer. How did you end up being an educator in Elko, Nevada of all places?
“I came out to Elko in 1985. I never thought I would live in Nevada. My wife and I were living in Alaska before moving to El Paso, Texas. We loved El Paso, but she was ready to go someplace else. She saw they were hiring in the field of special education in Nevada. I told her I’d go to Elko, Winnemucca, and in third place was Reno! We applied twenty-six years ago and got jobs. Elko High really wanted her, but they knew we were a packaged deal. I still had to teach one year in Carlin before I moved over to Elko High. I’ve been here for twenty-four years now, all in the same classroom, and I have never looked back; I love it!”
What’s your overall impression of the Elko High School campus after working there all this time?
“This campus is a very nurturing one. However, you can nurture all you want, and some people will not see that as a positive; they’ll see it as a weakness because not everyone is interested in school. I’m glad we’re a nurturing campus though because all teachers have their share of difficult students, but you must try with them as well. You can’t say to a kid they are a waste of your time; you can’t do that. You can’t say to a kid that they have no value. “
What have you loved the most about being a part of students’ lives throughout your career, Mr. Fullmer?
“Both in English and Social Studies, it’s a real thrill to see a kid perk up when they realize they understand something. When we get those moments…that’s what a teacher lives for. Even this year, I’ve had some students come to me and tell me that I am still getting through to them in spite of my voice, slurring, and slow talking; they’re getting it! That’s the good stuff.”
Mr. Fullmer, you mentioned your voice and your speech. I eluded earlier in this article to the fact that parts of yourself have been affected by your illness. Can you talk a little bit about where you are in life when it comes to working with ALS? How have your students, peers, and community responded as you live with it and yet still show up to class every day?
“Due to my ALS, my teaching career is winding down. I don’t want it to, but I don’t have a choice. It’s the reality. However, this year has been a God sent because I’ve had a reason to get out of bed and not think about my personal problems.”
With tears in eyes, Mr. Fuller continued to explain, “I focus on getting down here to the school because I love doing this. I love these kids; they probably don’t know that, but I do. This has been a phenomenal career, and I have enjoyed being a part of this wonderful school.”
“I can’t go anywhere in this town where I don’t run into former students or colleagues. I’ve taught so many wonderful people, and now I’m teaching some of their children! I guess I’ve had such a wide impact that they still remember who I am when I can’t even remember half their names! I’ve been so grateful to live here and raise my four children here. My wife and I have had a wonderful life, and this campus has treated us so well.”
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See you around, Elko!