University of Virginia Highlights Kristina Fulton

August 14, 2023 University of Virginia

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Kristina Fulton believes in the value of lifelong learning – for herself as well as her students. UVA’s Education Specialist program in Curriculum & Instruction illuminated a pathway for professional growth.

Q: What first made you want to pursue a career in education?

I am from a family of educators; my grandmother, parents, brother, aunts, and cousins were or are educators. Conversations at family events always circle back to teaching. We joke that teaching is in our blood. My family’s excitement about teaching inspired my commitment to a future in education. As a high school student, I was asked to tutor a peer in Algebra 2. From this experience I found success and developed a passion for helping others find success in mathematics.

Q: Why did you decide to enroll in the C&I Ed.S. program at UVA?

I have a strong passion for learning and, early in my career, I discovered my preference for graduate programs over independent courses. These programs provide me with a more comprehensive and well-rounded learning experience. After schools initially closed due to Covid, in the summer of 2020, I felt unprepared for the changes that were needed to provide high-quality learning experiences for my students. I initially enrolled as a student in UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. I was astounded by my growth as an educator and leader after my initial experience and applied to the Ed.S. program to enhance my expertise. This program had a transformative effect on both my personal growth and my career.

Q: How would you describe your experience at UVA?

My time at UVA has profoundly impacted both my professional and personal life, shaping the way I perceive and engage with the world. Through critical reflection and supported research, I’ve experienced transformative learning. I’ve had the privilege of studying alongside classmates and faculty from diverse backgrounds who share my passion for education. The courses I’ve taken have been purposeful, relevant, and connected, with valuable feedback provided. Each learning experience was thoughtfully aligned with the course and program goals, reflecting best practices.

Q: If you had to choose one thing that has had the greatest impact on you during your time at UVA so far, what would that be?

As I look back on my experience at UVA, I recall numerous impactful courses and professors. However, if I had to emphasize one, it would be EDIS 8855: Critical Race Theory in Education with Dr. Danielle Bierzynski. This course led me to reflect on my own educational experiences and their influence on my instructional practices. Throughout the duration of the course, I engaged in thoughtful reflections on how the readings and discussions transformed my beliefs and perspectives. Dr. Bierzynski provided opportunities for live discussion, listened to my questions and experiences without judgment, and provided feedback that increased my depth of understanding. By diving into readings and conducting research on a problem of practice, my most significant takeaway was recognizing the power of transformative practices in enhancing outcomes for historically underserved students.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

All students deserve high-quality mathematics instruction. I am passionate about mathematics education and supporting teachers in understanding and implementing high-quality mathematics instruction. I feel that more effective mathematics instruction could prevent the struggles that I’ve seen from students. By completing the Ed.D. Curriculum and Instruction program, my first goal, I will be able to continue to develop as a leader, make connections, and challenge my thinking to create and deliver professional learning and curriculum development services that empower educators and leaders and set students up for success. I want to use research to improve practices, beginning with the school districts in my area and expanding to broaden impact as a curriculum and instruction consultant and hopefully an education author. In addition, I hope to gain additional experience teaching at the college level, facilitating learning experiences for educators and pre-service teachers.

Q: How do you think your time at UVA has helped prepare you to meet those goals?

The University of Virginia’s Ed.S. program has given me base knowledge of current research on instructional design, principles of the educational use of multimedia, assessment practices, and trends in curriculum. This knowledge has increased my confidence as a facilitator, support person, and coach. This program introduced me to viewpoints and opinions that are different from my own and provided the setting and support to learn from others. I learned to pause first, ask questions, seek multiple perspectives, and keep an open mind. UVA’s program supports me as both a learner and a professional to help districts set up students for success. The Ed.S. program sparked my professional growth and made me desire more.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in education?

A career in education can be challenging at times but is incredibly rewarding. As an educator, you’re not just impacting students but society. A career in education means continuous learning. Seek opportunities for professional learning. Professional learning can support effectiveness, content knowledge, staying up to date, addressing challenges, and establishing a professional network. Embrace collaborative opportunities within your district and consider other opportunities for collaboration as well. Finally, never forget that relationships matter. Every student is unique, and you may find you learn just as much from them as they do from you.

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