Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: Virginia Fasulo (NJ '23)

May 10, 2024

Instrumental in creating the pre-med curriculum at Lodi High School, Virginia Fasulo (NJ ’23) channels her experience in healthcare to provide students with hands-on opportunities and career skills. Virginia says she hopes to “give students the introduction to medicine that I wish I’d had before starting in the field.” Many report choosing careers in healthcare as a result of her influence. Virginia received a 2023-24 New Jersey Milken Educator Award in Lodi on October 13, 2023.

Milken Family Foundation: How have students responded since your Milken Educator Award surprise?

Virginia Fasulo (NJ '23): My students have been incredibly supportive and excited for me, even those I did not personally have as students. I think it has made them feel a lot of pride in their school and our program, which makes me very happy.

MFF: Who are your role models as an educator? Is there an experience you had in the classroom as a student that shaped who you are as an educator?

Fasulo: My mother was a home ec teacher for 40 years and she used to bring me with her to help her prepare her classroom in the summer. Her classroom was a beautiful and engaging double lab featuring two fully functional kitchens. I have lots of fond memories of getting milkshakes and then helping her set up for the students in the fall. 

One of my most formative experiences in the classroom was as an undergraduate in college taking comparative anatomy for the first time. My professor, Dr. Stephen Brown, was an incredible teacher and he inspired a flame of curiosity in me that became a lifetime love of learning. The way he spoke of biology and evolution forever changed the way I viewed the world and the human body. 

MFF: Tell us about your first year of teaching. 

Fasulo: My first year of teaching was an absolute whirlwind and, in some ways, a trial by fire. I had big classes with extremely mixed abilities and a lot of large personalities, so I struggled at first to find a balance between maintaining order and being a fun teacher. Some memories that stand out happened while co-teaching with my good friend, Pat. We used to have so much fun and worked very well together as a team, and the kids used to enjoy the pranks and jokes we would play on each other. I also remember my first honors integrated science class and how much fun I had blowing their minds when I taught them space science. I was really helped that year by my supervisor, Thao Hansen, and our curriculum supervisor, Mr. Albert Tarleton. They were both so supportive and helpful, even sitting in my classes when I asked them to and giving me excellent feedback and advice.

MFF: What do you hope students remember from their time with you?

Fasulo: I hope students remember the first aid/CPR/Stop the Bleed training. It could save lives one day! Also, I hope they remember how I taught them to stay curious, love learning, and be someone who gets involved and can help during emergencies, rather than just stay back as a bystander.

MFF: You've played an instrumental role in creating Lodi's pre-med curriculum, connecting students to hands-on experience before they graduate high school. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind your work strengthening these pathways to future healthcare careers? 

Fasulo: My inspiration was my own experience in the field, and what I wish had been taught to me when I was in high school. I worked at a veterinary hospital starting in my sophomore year, then went pre-med and worked in EMS (Emergency Medical Services) in college, and then went on to get a master’s degree in public health. With each of those experiences, I gained a lot of hands-on skills and knowledge, and when I began teaching at Lodi, my students asked me to lead a Pre-Med Club. Seeing that there was a need for this program, we began to develop it into a full-blown curriculum with a track of courses that should give students the introduction to medicine that I wish I’d had before starting in the field.

MFF: What is it like to see students go on to choose healthcare careers because of your influence?

Fasulo: Of course, it’s always an amazing experience to see my students go into the health field. One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is when students who have graduated come back to visit and regale me with their stories. I especially love when they tell me they were prepared for a situation or event because of something they learned in my class. Of course, I am not disappointed if a student realizes they do not want to go into medicine. Then at least they will not have wasted their time, and are one step closer to finding out what they really want to do.

MFF: What advice would you share with people who are interested in becoming teachers?

Fasulo: I could probably write an entire book on just this. My advice would be that you have to remember not to take student behaviors personally. Most of them are dealing with a lot, ranging from anxiety and depression to abusive households, and if they are acting out, there’s usually a reason. Don’t confront them in front of their peers. It just makes them aggressive and defensive. Speak to them alone once they’ve calmed down. I have gotten good responses by using questions instead of commands (i.e. “Do you need a pencil?” vs. “Take out your pencil.”). Also, document EVERYTHING and get involved with your local union. We are stronger together.

MFF: Are you working on any interesting initiatives or new projects? Is there anything else you want to share about your classroom?

Fasulo: We are working on developing our chicken habitat in our school’s courtyard. The engineering and construction students are currently building a 12-chicken coop that’s sturdy enough to withstand a hurricane, and features a working HVAC system! We are also working on potentially developing a feeder program into the pre-med track for our middle school, and establishing ties with local universities and hospitals so that our students will have more access to opportunities and facilities there in the future.

Watch our interview with Virginia Fasulo (NJ '23) on the day of her Milken Award notification:


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