DaMeisha Fleming, a first grade teacher at James Whitcomb Riley School 43, admits she doesn’t like to be the center of attention. But, twice in the last week, the educator has been the focus of a major award. First, she was named a Teacher of the Year for Indianapolis Public Schools, and now is the recipient of the Golden Apple Award.
“I come in every day and love my kids,” Fleming said. “I don’t feel as though I do anything crazy. I just instill into my students a sense of love and identity. They come into a classroom where they are accepted and loved.”
Fleming admits she was taken off guard when a WISH-TV crew came into her classroom along with James Whitcomb Riley Principal Lauren Johnson and several of her peers.
“I don’t like to be under the spotlight,” she said. “It’s all about my kids.”
WISH-TV and its broadcast partner at Bailey & Wood Mortgage Lender surprised Fleming with a $500 cash prize and Golden Apple Trophy.
During the event, she watched a short video created by the news organization that featured her students and peers discussing her teaching skills.
During the visit by WISH-TV, she was hugged by her students on several occasions and Fleming admitted she has a passion for younger students after starting her career with fourth graders.
“My family is very supportive. That village raised me,” said Fleming, who was in the spotlight when nearly two dozen aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters showed up for her Teacher of the Year “surprise” announcement. “I try to bring that mentality into the classroom. The kids had a soccer game last night and I was there. I try to show them that I care both in and out of the classroom.”
Principal Lauren Johnson is proud of Fleming, noting the young teacher’s skills greatly contribute to the school’s culture.
“What makes her effective is that she has high expectations for all of the students in the school and she gets students to reach these expectations through her love and care,” Johnson said. “She uses a variety of strategies including hands-on activities. She models how to solve problems for student and then provides opportunities for her students to share their learning and explain how they solved problems.
When Fleming returns in the fall, her new group of first graders will participate in an expanded Black History module. Instead of just focusing on Black History Month, she plans to incorporate her lessons throughout the year.
“We are in a school where 80 percent of the students are either Black or Brown. I want them to know more about the importance that African Americans had on our society. My responsibility as a teacher is to expose them to new ideas. Learning changes them for the better.”