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Indianapolis teacher shines a light on Black history and empowers students

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — WISH-TV is proud to honor some of central Indiana’s most outstanding teachers with our Golden Apple Award.

The prize comes with a check for $500, a trophy, and a big surprise.

May’s winner is an Indianapolis Public Schools first-grade teacher at James Whitcomb Riley School 43.

DaMeisha Fleming is the final Golden Apple Award winner for the 2021-2022 school year. She does just about every role you can think of at the school, while also shining a light on the power of Black history and empowering students.

(WISH Photo)

Fleming is a teacher, athletic coach, and specialized tutor and is in school getting her master’s degree at IUPUI. However, no matter how busy she is, she makes it her life’s work to be there for every student.

Fleming’s current students, and even older students like 12-year-old Myonna Anderson, are full of praise.

“She is like a superhero, honestly, because she is always there for everyone,” Anderson said.

Fleming is that special person for every student in the school, says 15-year-old Sean Rivera.

“I see her like a family member for real,” Rivera said. “She really treats us like her own child.”

To the kids in her 1st-grade classroom, she means everything.

“She is like my favorite teacher and she is very kind,” 7-year-old Nalayah Owens said.

Exzavyon Brewer, 7, told News 8 that Fleming is “the best teacher in my whole entire world”.

Fleming is interactive, engaging, and welcoming. Her students are thankful for her every day, and so are fellow teachers like Melissa Wiseman.

“She is amazing. She is incredibly supportive, warm, and prepared. She is a really good human,” Wiseman said.

Wiseman teaches first grade with Fleming. She says Fleming she got a special certification to help students with dyslexia and spends hours encouraging students in all grades to read.

“She tutors students here also in her off time, outside the classroom,” Wiseman said.

Fleming also helps the school’s family and community engagement liaison, Donavan Avance, with sports. Avance says Fleming makes his work possible.

“She comes with that compassion and caring side. She is an important piece here and she really matters,” Avance said.

Fleming also understands that her students and their backgrounds matter. Fleming’s favorite quote, which many feel she embodies, is from Maya Angelou: “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”

Lauren Johnson, principal at James Whitcomb Riley School 43, says of Fleming: “She is just outstanding. She is someone who is an outstanding educator for students from cradle to college.”

(WISH Photo)

Johnson says Fleming is empowering students to learn about their culture. She created an entirely new program called the Black History Thematic Unit.

“We have over 80% black and brown students here,” Avance said. “Students in the classroom, understand where they come from – their history – their culture, everything from the past present, and the future,”

The three-week course culminates with a book kids make talking about their own black history. Now Fleming is working with the school’s dean of culture and climate to create the behavior matrix for the building.

“There is a saying as an African American educator, I am black history. And when I think of Ms. Fleming, I can truly say Ms. Fleming is black history. She is the black history of the present and the black history of the future,” said Johnson.

Now she’s going down in the WISH-TV history books as the next golden apple award winner.

News 8’s Hanna Mordoh went to surprise Fleming in the final week of the school year. She was honored to see students, staff and TV cameras during the surprise. Then she was given the Golden Apple trophy and a $500 check from the Golden Apple Award sponsor partner Bailey and Wood Mortgage Lender

“Very overwhelmed,” said Fleming. “Very happy. With the recent loss of my dad, I was out for a few days… And so when I came back my presence was missed and just their hugs throughout the day. Just loving on each other. So I had no doubt or concerns about our love for each other.”

(WISH Photo)

Fleming said her students keep her propelled and coming in day after day and that children deserve the best from their teachers.

“Growing up I never had a teacher of color and so my first year was here at this school teaching 4th and 5th grade and a student said to me ‘you are my first teacher of color.’ And that is the reason I came into education. I did not have a representation of myself. And so I think it is crucial our students know who they are and where they come from,” said Fleming.

The bond she has created in her classroom and at the entire school is real. She shares those raw moments with her students. Just like a family, she’s here for them and they’re here for her. Perhaps the greatest lesson is that empowering people to be their best selves is the true power of a teacher.

After WISH-TV surprised Fleming with the Golden Apple Award she was named one of two “teachers of the year” at Indianapolis Public Schools.

To watch other Golden Apple Award recipients, click this link.

To nominate a deserving teacher for next month’s Golden Apple Award, submit a detailed nomination here.