Indiana Teacher of the Year shares message of excellence and empathy in teaching

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2018 Indiana Teacher of the Year Jerome Flewelling speaks to School of Education students

When Jerome Flewelling started teaching high school physics, he stuck with the “lecture, lab, test” approach he had been taught. Flewelling, the 2018 Indiana Teacher of the Year, soon found his classroom spiraling out of control. Exhausted from his students’ apathy and discipline problems, he considered if he was even cut out for teaching.

Instead, he decided to assign his students a project: they had two weeks to build a catapult that would launch a tennis ball across a football field. The project ended up launching something else, too: Flewelling’s new approach to teaching.

“I discovered my students wanted to be engaged, they wanted to be challenged, they wanted to find the curriculum had meaning in their lives,” Flewelling told a group of School of Education students. “I could have thought oh, I don’t want to be evaluated poorly or we have these end of year assessments [to worry about], but instead I knew that something had to change and I had to step out of my [comfort zone] to do that. It was the courage to be greater than average.”

Constantly reflect on what happened, how it worked, how it didn’t work. Never stop trying to be better, never get complacent in your teaching.

Jerome Flewelling

Flewelling spoke at the School of Education as part of a presentation sponsored by INSPIRE Living-Learning Center. He now teaches physics at Crown Point High School in Crown Point, Indiana. In his classroom, he says it’s his job to celebrate each student’s uniqueness.

“Every day we walk with students with baggage, and that’s our job as educators to say to them, that’s ok. I love you for who you are and we’re going to have a great year.”

After twenty years of teaching and countless lessons learned, Flewelling still looks for ways to improve his classroom – and advises future teachers to do the same.

“As you go into education, constantly reflect on what happened, how it worked, how it didn’t work," he said. “Ask the students. They’ll be brutally honest with you. Never stop trying to be better, never get complacent in your teaching.”