Retiring Buckfield teacher began career in CIA, banking

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BUCKFIELD — David Fulenwider took an unusually long way around to become a social studies and government teacher at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School.

He was a member of the CIA, an international banker, served in the U.S. Army in Panama and has traveled to many nations of the world.

When school lets out in mid-June, the 66-year-old New York state native will wrap up 32 years in education, with all of them at the small Western Maine school.

“Whatever we do in life before teaching is helpful. Having both government and business experience provided a wealth of information,” he said.

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He left a career in international banking in New York City and, before that, in Tokyo, on a Friday in 1976, he said. And on Monday morning, he was enrolled in education classes at Columbia University.

“After a while, I realized I probably had too many scruples for the banking business,” he said.

Over the years in the classroom, he has used his CIA, travel and banking experience as material in his classes as he has tried to emphasize the importance of being involved in the community and government.

Although his only Maine experience was as a student at Bates College in the 1960s, it had been in the back of his mind as a nice place, particularly to raise a family. He and his wife, Eiko, a Japanese native, have two adult children, who were both  valedictorians in their respective classes at Buckfield. His daughter is a civil engineer, and his son is a stuntman in Hollywood.

He said he didn’t seek out Buckfield to begin his education career, but when he graduated from Columbia, there were three openings in Maine. One was in Ellsworth, which seemed a bit far from everything, the second was in Oakland, which he said primarily wanted a football coach, and the third was in Buckfield.

“I was happy to be back in Maine,” he said.

That’s where he and his wife settled, in an old farmhouse that he is still working on. He has no intentions of leaving the area, but both he and his wife plan to become virtually full-time grandparents.

His daughter, in Massachusetts, is due to have the family’s first grandchild any day.

He said his career at Buckfield has been one of great satisfaction. He was disillusioned with government scandals and business, and believes social studies and government are really important for young people. He also enjoys working with the teens everyday.

“Everything I’ve ever done has been meaningful. I have a greater appreciation of young people and what they have to face,” he said.

One letter from a former student in the 1990s has provided a special sense of satisfaction for him.

At that time, she was a student at Dartmouth College. She wrote that people from small towns and small schools can do anything, something that Fulenwider tries to teach his students.

With retirement about to begin, the trips to Massachusetts will be frequent, and that room full of books he’s never had time to read is waiting.

“It will be nice to spend time with family, and I’ll be a doting grandfather,” he said.

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