Fuller, Arthur 1972–
Arthur Fuller 1972–
Arthur Fuller went to college with the sole intention of becoming a physician. Not only did he receive his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and behavior, but he also served as a medical research assistant each summer. And yet, following his graduation he received a teaching fellowship. Teaching then became his new calling. But Fuller was not content with the traditional style of teaching. He used various media and real-life experiences to broaden the minds of his students.
Arthur Fuller was born on September 26, 1972 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and was raised in Ohio and Tennessee. As he told Contemporary Black Biography, he spent his childhood playing sports and “was either coming from or going to some type of sporting event, whether it was basketball, track, soccer, or baseball.” Many members of his mother’s family had pursued careers in education, including his own mother who herself was a math teacher. Despite his attempts to follow a much different professional course, Fuller found he could not escape what he termed the “education bug.” Intrigued by his tutoring experiences while finishing his undergraduate work, Fuller spent the year after graduating from Wesleyan University reevaluating his professional goals. In 1995 he received a Heinz teaching fellowship at Sewickely Academy outside of Pittsburgh, and by the conclusion of that year he knew he was destined for education.
During his college years, Fuller also explored his passion for music and his interest in producing music which combined the influences of gospel and jazz. As a junior in college in 1992, he started to explore the drums and also studied African music. Subsequently, during the summer of 1994 he joined one of his college professors on a recording and went on a tour of the west coast. As he told CBB, “That’s how I really got the jazz bug.” For the next six years, Fuller would moonlight as a jazz drummer in his own quartet and frequently played in New York City and the Tri-State area.
Upon receiving his masters in Middle School mathematics in 1996, Fuller began to teach computer technology, math, and science at Middlebrook Middle School in Wilton, Connecticut. There he became known not only as a teacher, but as a mentor, musician, and web site designer as well. Tim Silloway of The Wilton Bulletin commented, that Fuller was one “generally dedicated to helping children grow through learning.” Credited with bringing effusive spirit and energy to the school, his principal, Julia Harris, noted in The Wilton Bulletin, “His talents and infectious laughter are a gift to this community.”
Teaching enabled Fuller to focus on his true love: working with kids. Modestly, he told The Wilton Bulletin, “I love working with kids, that’s what it comes down to.”
But Silloway would argue that there is far more beneath the surface: “This guy wants nothing more than to
At a Glance…
Born on September 26, 1972 in Harrisburg, PA, Education: B.A., Neuroscience and Behavior, Wesleyan University, 1994; M.Ed., Middle School Mathematics Education, Shady Hill School/Lesley College Joint Masters, 1996.
Career: Research assistant, Horizons in Medicine Program, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, summer 1988, 1989; research assistant, NIH Research Apprentice Program, Vanderbilt University, summer 1990; medical assistant, Dr. Angelo Agee D.D.S., Montgomery, Alabama, summer 1992; research assistant, Howard Hughes Research Grant, Wesleyan University, summer 1993; coordinator, Little Ujamaa Community Tutorial, 1992-94; teaching assistant, Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS), summer 1991, 1992, 1994; teaching intern, Sewickeley Academy, 1994-95; math instructor, Concord Assabet Family and Adolescent Services, Acton, Massachusetts, summer 1996; instructor, Wilton Public Schools, 1996-99; founder, executive director, Fuller-Music; southeast regional advisor, Co-nect Schools, 1999–; educational consultant, Rogers School Community Service Organization; director of educational programs, Oak Street Center; educational consultant, CTE-Anti-Poverty Agency, Stamford, CT.
Selected Awards: Heinz Teaching Fellowship, 1994-95; Connecticut Department of Education, Certificate of Excellence Award; Wilton Education Foundation, Innovative Teacher Award.
Selected Memberships: American Anti-Slavery Organization, Board of Advisors.
Addresses: Office —Co-nect Schools, 1770 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 301, Cambridge, MA 01240
challenge students and watch them become the best they can be—and he’s got the stuff to do it.”
Forever creative in his approach to learning, Fuller blended his own fascination with math, science, and art into an innovative curriculum. He was instrumental in the success of a month-long program in February of 1999, “Global Celebration of Harmony,” promoting music, art, history, language arts, and math. The program culminated in a two-day interaction between his predominantly white school, Middlebrook, and its sister school, the mostly African-American Turn of the River School in Stamford, Connecticut. Known as “Sharing Diversity Through The Arts,” the two-day encounter allowed students to visit each others’ school to experience African art, music, and history through such mediums as vibrant paintings, West African drumming, math problems from ancient Egypt, and the 1,500-year-old music of the Gnawa musicians of Morocco, the root of American jazz.
In another highly-visible project, in 1999 Fuller began a campaign with 120 Middlebrook sixth-graders to raise money to buy the freedom of slaves in Sudan. As Fuller noted in an interview with Linda Conner Lam-beck of the Connecticut Post, “I was shocked. Completely shocked to learn slavery is still going on in parts of Africa. I had to take that shock and turn it into action.” While controversial in that some argue that purchasing freedom for slaves in essence condones the existence of the institution itself, Fuller believed that such undertakings were better than doing nothing. As he commented in a discussion with The Wilton Bulletin, “the students are not really buying slaves, but buying freedom.” Moreover, Fuller continued, the efforts will continue to raise international awareness of the horrors in Africa while increasing students’ awareness of the importance of community service and of communicating and working together to achieve a common goal. Never at a loss for the connection to a standard curriculum, Fuller had students utilize spreadsheets, graphs, and computers to track monies earned.
While the Wilton Public Schools provided Fuller with a comfortable salary and standard of living, as he told CBB, he knew that as an educator he wanted to reach students from urban and inner cities. Not only did he feel that he could motivate these students, but he knew that “kids who have a grasp of computer technology can level their own playing field and write their own ticket.” From these energies blossomed the idea for FullerMusic.
FullerMusic, started in March of 1998, was primarily designed to demonstrate to children how the creative arts can be applied to computers. Moreover, as he explained to Betsy Peoples of Emerge, as technology advances, he “wants to make sure that children get in on it at every level.” Working through organizations such as The Oak Street Center, The Urban League of Southwestern Connecticut’s Downtown Oasis, the Lathon Wider Center’s Discovery Program, and the Rogers Family Resource Center, Fuller brought his technological and musical abilities to young people and involved them in projects such as making their own compact discs, computer visual design, and dance and jazz workshops. Fuller worked with students to upload their work onto the Internet. “The goal of putting students’ work on the Web,” he told The Wilton Bulletin, “is to show kids how to use the Internet in an educational and positive way.” Moreover, as he explained to Cristine Santo of FamilyPC Magazine, he emphatically believes that “[c]hildren will embrace technology if you make it meaningful to them, and once they can use technology to share their ideas, they’ll see no limits to what they can accomplish.”
In a similar vein, Fuller worked with 12 youths from Stamford from November of 1998 until June of 1999 through a career enrichment series which he had designed. The program sought to provide minority students with a boost into the professional world by teaching them how to apply mathematics to professional recording, marketing, compact disc design, music videos, and film. Students also learned how to design and market their internet businesses. To ensure that the work was not conceived as purely recreational, Fuller set rigorous standards for concurrent traditional academic achievement for the participants.
At the root of Fuller’s work is the compelling drive to “make learning fun.” In discussing his incentives with Emerge, such as allowing students to make CD recordings of themselves reading a book, Fuller commented, “I have kids who cannot read, trying to because they want [to make] their own CD.” From writing newsletters to creating virtual budgets, Fuller has empowered his students to achieve in ways they never believed possible. As he told FamilyPC, after one project “you could see the lights going on in their eyes about the things they could do.”
FullerMusic itself began with a focus on middle and high school students. Fuller quickly realized, though, that even younger children could benefit from his programming and that teachers, too, often needed assistance in overcoming resistance to—and fears about—technology. Thus, to address these issues, Fuller also developed The Little Junior Project, a curriculum designed to teach literacy through computers with a focus at the elementary school level. In determining how computer technology can be creatively applied and implemented in the classroom, The Little Junior Project sought to improve critical thinking skills and standardized test results. These interdisciplinary lessons are, in fact, created by middle school and high school students.
During the summer of 1999 Fuller’s efforts with FullerMusic and Little Junior began to receive national attention. As Samuel Cotton of Columbia University described him on The Little Junior website, Fuller “is a man that reaches his goals....He develops models so that he can transfer them to other areas. This is a man interested in changing school systems in the urban environment by the application of proven models...[He] displays a firm grasp of the problems facing minority youth.” James Hall, the national managing director of human resources for Deloitte & Touche, would concur. “It is Art’s ability to see a situation in terms of its possibility and potential rather than its limitation that makes him a unique individual,” he was quoted as saying on the Little Junior website.
At the same time, Co-nect Schools, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, approached Fuller and offered him the opportunity to join their company in order to promote similar educational programs on a national level. Co-nect Schools tackles the challenge of linking real-world projects to academic content, local school standards, and improved achievement on standardized tests. By harnessing the power of technology and the web, Co-nect provides comprehensive school reform by using project-based learning, standards-based reform, educational technology, and an interdisciplinary curriculum. Importantly for Fuller, the organization targeted its energies towards school districts with a high percentage of minority students. In fact, as of the fall of 2000, the company serviced schools in nine of the ten largest urban school districts in the country.
Fuller travelled throughout the southeastern United States to promote what he described to CBB, “started as a simple idea to raise the expectation and achievement level of urban students through the use and application of computer technology.” Fuller interacts with principals, teachers, and other school officials to tell them his story and to inform them of how they, too, can receive funding for similar projects. Co-nect Schools then provides the support necessary to realize these programs at the school level. Meanwhile, Fuller has had to place FullerMusic and Little Junior on what he termed a “temporary hiatus,” and he has had to sever the partnerships he had created with community centers and service projects in order to expand the mission and goals of this new company. He is still attempting to reconcile how he might blend FullerMusic and Little Junior into his current work.
Before even turning 30, Art Fuller has made an impact on African-American children. Whether in the classroom, on the road, or in the studio, Fuller’s mission is clear: to ensure that these students learn about their culture, to instill in them a sense of pride for this culture, and, perhaps most importantly, to cultivate in each of them feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, and pride in their own accomplishments.
Connecticut Post, June 6, 1999; June 8, 1999.
Emerge Magazine, July/August 1999.
FamilyPC Magazine, November 1999.
The Wilton Bulletin, November 12, 1998; February 4, 1999; March 4, 1999; March 25, 1999.
The Wilton Villager, February 4, 1999; March 18, 1999.
Additional information was obtained from a personal interview conducted with CBB and papers provided by Arthur Fuller, and on-line at The Little Junior Project, www.fullermusic.com and www.littlejunior.org.
—Lisa S. Weitzman
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