The Student Becomes the Teacher: TJC speech alumnus inspires a student of his own and wins Sondheim award

Aug 06, 2015 by

Tyler Junior College has two connections to this year’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards: A winning teacher and the student who nominated him.

JP Fugler, a former TJC student and current speech teacher at Van High School, is one of 13 educators nationwide – and the only winner from Texas – selected this year from an extensive pool of nominees.

Fugler was nominated for the Sondheim award by his former VHS student Jacob Savage, now a freshman speech/communications major at TJC.

In spring of 2008, Fugler himself was a standout speech student at TJC, where he earned awards for parliamentary debate and program oral interpretation. After TJC, he finished his education at The University of Texas at Tyler.

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a speech teacher, and Tyler Junior College groomed me for that,” Fugler said. “(TJC speech professor) M’Liss Hindman is one of the people I credit most for shaping me as an educator.”

Even after Fugler transferred to UT Tyler, Hindman created an internship so he could assist her with coaching the TJC speech team.

“She taught me how to be a teacher,” he said.

Hindman said, “JP always had the goal to teach on the high school level, even though I tried to sway him to teach on the college level. But he felt his calling was to the high school age and I know he was correct. His students are truly inspired by him.”

Hindman’s assessment is obviously on target, because in his essay nominating Fugler for the Sondheim award, Jacob Savage wrote:

“During my junior year, we attended the prestigious St. Mark’s Heart of Texas forensics tournament. Throughout the tournament, Mr. Fugler encouraged me to watch rounds of Original Oratory, a ten-minute memorized speaking event.

Jacob Savage (second from left) and his fellow “Polar Bears,” aka the TJC forensics team, warm up for their annual showcase, held during this year’s first TJC Festival of the Arts. For more on fhe arts festival, see the article on Pg. 9. TJC’s forensics team consistently wins multiple awards at the state and national levels, often besting their counterparts at four-year institutions.

Jacob Savage (second from left) and his fellow “Polar Bears,” aka the TJC forensics team, warm up for their annual showcase, held during this year’s first TJC Festival of the Arts. For more on fhe arts festival, see the article on Pg. 9. TJC’s forensics team consistently wins multiple awards at the state and national levels, often besting their counterparts at four-year institutions.

“The writing commitment deterred me, but he persisted and offered his help. As we drove home late that night, I told him I wanted his help in writing an oratory for the next year. He simply said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to say that.’ I had no idea what the subject would be or how to even start, but his response was all I needed to give me confidence in my commitment.”

The Sondheim awards were created in 2010, in honor of composer Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday, and were initiated and funded through the support of Myrna and Freddie Gershon. Award recipients each receive $10,000 and are showcased, along with the people they inspired, on a website dedicated to inspirational teachers.

The 2015 Inspirational Teachers are: Dr. John C. Carr (posthumous) of Washington, D.C.; Dr. Melissa Collins of Memphis, Tennessee; Jack Ellis of St. Clair Shores, Michigan; JP Fugler of Van, Texas; Vivian Fusillo of Winona, Minnesota; Arthur Hall of Lumberton, North Carolina; Joshua Hosler of Lake Orion, Michigan; Arlene Kies of Durham, New Hampshire; Dr. Gagik Melikyan of Northridge, California; Teresa Parrott of Salisbury, Maryland; Tracey Rains of Sevierville, Tennessee; Jim Robert of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Evelyn Seubert of Reseda, California.

“Teachers define us,” Sondheim said on the Kennedy Center website. “In our early years, when we are still being formed, they often see in us more than we see in ourselves, more even than our families see and, as a result, help us to evolve into what we ultimately become. Good teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone.”

To learn more about the Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards, please visit www.kennedy-center.org/SondheimTeacherAwards.

 


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Features, Summer 2015

About the author

Elise Mullinix is Tyler Junior College's Editorial Manager. She can be reached at 903-510-2370 or at emul2@tjc.edu.