Soon after Governor Ralph Northam announced her selection as 2022 Virginia Teacher of the Year, Daphne Fulson stood at a podium in front of the Executive Mansion in Richmond and shakily scrolled through her phone.
"I told my kiddos back home that if I won, I would say hello to all of them," she told the crowd, and proceeded to greet each of the second-graders on her roster at Portlock Primary School in Chesapeake.
Fulson, who earned her bachelor's degree from Old Dominion University in 2013 and is pursuing her master's degree in educational leadership from the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies, was one of eight regional finalists vying for the honor. To be considered, each teacher had to submit a portfolio highlighting their accomplishments, educational philosophy and community activities. She will be the commonwealth's nominee in the National Teacher of the Year program.
Wiping a tear as she accepted her award, Fulson said, "I believe in the efforts of the community, and I know I didn't do this by myself. Every day, I have people pouring into my cup and so, every day when I wake up and go see my kids, it's my mission to pour into their cups."
Fulson has 12 years of teaching experience, four of which have been in Chesapeake. Her commitment to her students has been clear to Darden College faculty.
"Ms. Fulson exemplifies quality and equitable teaching. Her students benefit from her ability to address both their academic and socioemotional needs," said Tammi Dice, interim dean of the Darden College. "We are extremely proud of our distinguished alumna and look forward to hearing about her continued success."
Earlier this year, Portlock Primary School surprised Fulson's students with an assembly celebrating her selection as a regional finalist. In a video produced by Chesapeake Public Schools, a former student calls Fulson a "superhero to all of us." Footage shows her daily routine of offering her students an affirmation as they exit her classroom, praising them for being helpful and kind.
Valerie Taylor, interim director for the Office of Clinical Experiences, praised Fulson's ability to form supportive connections with her students.
"It takes a special person to connect with students in a way that helps them gain content knowledge while also making them feel valued, respected and prepared for what life throws at them," Taylor said.
In addition to her time at ODU, Fulson studied Spanish linguistics at Universidad Veritas in San José, Costa Rica. In 2015, she received the Sue Lehmann Teaching and Learning Fellowship for the Rio Grande Valley Texas region, and in 2017 she received the Good to Transformational Teaching Fellowship. While studying in Peru, Fulson was an English as a Foreign Language instructor for children and adults. She later served as a member of Americorps and received the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.
She has served as a Spanish translator, a co-chair of the Parents as Education Partners (PEP) Program and as a Global Ambassador at ODU. At her elementary school, Fulson is co-chair of the Math and STEAM Committee and serves as math lead and city liaison, assisting with grade-level mathematics curriculum development. She is a member of the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society and the International Thespian Society.
In her spare time, Fulson enjoys traveling internationally, building homes with Habitat for Humanity and participating in regional spoken-word competitions, according to a Chesapeake Public Schools release.