Warriors of Jupiter: Michael Fleming

Micheal+Fleming+posing+outside+his+classroom.

Kaysa Flemk-Joli

Micheal Fleming posing outside his classroom.

Jupiter High’s Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher Michael Fleming has been an educator for 37 years. Although he loves teaching social studies, he is eager to begin a new chapter of his life after he retires in June. 

Fleming has always loved history and even studied the subject in college. He earned his degree in history from the University of Mississippi, affectionately called “Ole Miss.” 

With his degree, Fleming planned to go to law school, but his father fell ill. As a result, he had to return home to West Palm Beach to help his mother. Since he needed an income, he decided to teach history.

“I needed a job, so I went and taught. So about the fifth week of teaching, although I was all over the place, I said I really like this and this is what I’m going to do,” Fleming said. “About half-way through the first nine weeks of teaching, my original plan was to go to law school. [Since] there’s only two things to do with a history degree: teach and go to law school.”

Fleming’s first teaching job was at Forest Hill High School. He was 21-years-old and happy to return to his alma mater, where he attended the school four years prior.

“I was 21 and teaching seniors,” Fleming said. 

When Fleming went out with his friends in his free time, he would see his students, since they were so close in age. He claims that he even taught his friends’ siblings.

“I had a lot of my friends’ brothers and sisters in class that I graduated with. I was 21, so it made it interesting when I would go out with my friends and see my students,’” Fleming said.

Fleming moved to Jupiter in 2000, where he now lives with his wife and two children: Mallory and Tucker. He and his wife wanted their kids to grow up in the area and attend Jupiter High, which is what they did. He even had the privilege to teach them and walk them across the stage at graduation.

“I’ve been up here 20 years. We built the house in Egret Landing and wanted both our kids to go to Jupiter High,” Fleming said.

One of Fleming’s favorite things to do is to spend time with his friends and family. His friends are also his colleagues. He claims he always has a support system in his time of need, and he and his friends spend lots of time together outside of school, doing things like attending baseball games on the weekends.

“I have a very close group of friends here at school…My colleagues are my friends, and my friends are my colleagues, and that’s very rare that you can go to work and it’s not considered work…you just have a good group of people,” Fleming said. “We socialize together, travel together, we go to ball games together, and it’s basically my favorite thing to do…It’s a true blessing to have my friends around me, and at times, I’ve needed that.”

Fleming has always loved baseball. He began playing when he was a little boy. Although he didn’t create a career out of the baseball, he is still involved with the sport.

“I have played it since I was little. [Then], I coached, and I was Athletic Director for five years at Forest Hill High. I, then, sat on the state board of the Florida High School Activities Association in Gainesville,” Fleming said.

In addition to being passionate about baseball, Fleming is passionate about teaching his students. His favorite part about being a teacher is the students. When he goes through tough times, he likes being around the kids because of their ability to be upbeat and keep up with styles, music and the most active culture.

“You’re put [with] 150 adolescents, and you’re with them every day,” Fleming said. “The cool thing about teaching is that you never really get old. You see the styles, the music and it just keeps you up to date. It’s really just the students, it really is. I’ve always been very fortunate to say that I never go to work, and that’s the key. This has been a neat and rewarding career, and it has never been ‘work’ to me.” 

As much as he loves to teach, the students love his class. They appreciate his style of teaching because he uses emotion and personal experiences to tell the stories of the past.

“Mr. Fleming is very good at teaching his class. He uses emotion and stories, and he gets very emotional during it. Like how he says he is very proud of his country. He’s very proud of how it was formed, the history, and he expresses that to his students,” junior Francesco Beltrano said.

Aside from his classroom duties, Fleming is a writer and has written articles for several local newspapers. He has also been published in a history textbook. Fleming wrote a chapter on Andrew Jackson, in addition to a reflection on West Palm Beach for the Palm Beach Post.

“I am a native of West Palm and Palm Beach County…West Palm was celebrating their 100 year anniversary. With my history and government background they asked me to write an article, and at first it was a little critical. It was basically about how West Palm needed a self reflection on where it is going to go in the future because where it’s been and where it’s at right now, ” Fleming said. “In the America’s textbook I wrote the chapter on Andrew Jackson, back in the 90s.”

Fleming’s favorite history topic is the everyday life of the typical American in different eras. If he had the chance, he would either go back to the 1920s or the 1950s to be a part of the lifestyle.

“I think that we spend so much time on heroism like George Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt. But how did John Mary Jones live? What was their life like? I’d love to see where they went…I love the 1950’s. Probably the 1920’s and the 1950’s, if I had to be specific. Because I like cars, radio, music, and sports. And in both of those it was peaceful, and the economies were good. I think it would be a hoot to go see Babe Ruth play baseball,” Fleming said. 

When Fleming retires, he will be initially taking some time off, and then he will be traveling to places he has not yet been able to see because of his teaching job. 

“I’ve had some job offers, may go back to writing again. I’ve told Dr. Iannitti that I would help out proctoring with testing or free a teacher up with their class,” Fleming said. “But immediately, I will take some time off, just kind of relax a bit. I’ve been fortunate to travel. I’ve seen the world. There’s only a couple of places left that I really want to go see. I want to go to northern Europe, to see the northern lights, and I want to go to Antarctica. I’m a Fla. kid who grew up in the swamp. I want to see something completely different. The three great things about teaching are June, July and Aug. It does afford you the ability to travel.” 

Two things students have come to admire about Fleming are his strength and his compassion. In Oct., Fleming’s daughter went missing. He continued coming to school each day, even through the worry and the stress, because his students helped make the day just a little bit better.

“I realized that the students didn’t need their history teacher. Their history teacher needed them,” Fleming said.

Fleming truly appreciates running into former students and having them remember something about the class. He also feels intense pride when his students walk across the stage and graduate.

“[I love], at graduation, when I get to see the seniors who I taught graduate. To watch them graduate and shake hands with them. [I also love]  running into former students; I’ve been on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and run into a student,” Fleming said.

He cares about his students in and out of the classroom, his family and basically everyone around him. He even supports a child at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital each year. 

Personally, I have witnessed Fleming’s compassion when my best friend passed away in Sept. He pulled me aside and told me I was an example of why he taught. He made sure I knew I was not alone in my hard times and that he was proud of me for standing up at my best friend’s funeral and speaking to thousands of people in attendance.