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New Union Elementary School Principal Michelle Fleming recently sat down for an interview with My Buckhannon so the community can get to know her better.

Union Elementary School Principal Michelle Fleming feels she was ‘meant to be’ at UES

BUCKHANNON – Michelle Fleming has taken over the responsibilities as principal at Union Elementary School, and one thing she wants the teachers, staff, students and parents to know is her door is always open.

In fact, she hopes folks stop by to make suggestions, introduce themselves, volunteer to help at the school, all in an effort to work together to make Union Elementary a great “home away from home,” where students can grow and learn.

“I will seldom every have my door closed,” Fleming said. “I put treats out for Sadie, the dog who walks by. I want to make sure the community can contact me at any time. I want to be sure parents know safety is my first priority with students and that second to their primary home, I am their mother away from home, and I love these kids.”

Fleming grew up in Akron, Ohio, but she moved in the vicinity while in middle school.

“My family moved to Barbour County, which is where my parents were born and raised,” Fleming said. “So, we returned to their hometown of Belington. I am the youngest of five children, and my mom was always a goal-setter.”

She said her mother wanted at least one of her children to receive their college education, which Fleming said became her goal. But one obstacle stood in her way of obtaining that milestone – funds to pay for her education.

However, she found a way to pay for her education and achieve her dreams.

“I joined the military when I was a junior in high school and went off to basic training with one of my best friends,” Fleming said. “After my senior year I went to AIT training in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Then, I stayed in the Army Reserves for eight years while getting the GI Bill and paying for my college tuition at Fairmont State University.”

She said she met her husband, Curtis Fleming, while at FSU.

“After graduating, neither of us could find education jobs, so we both went to northern Virginia,” she said. “I worked there for 23 years, and we raised two girls – Laken and Autumn.”

She said they are happy to be back in the vicinity and surrounded by family. Fleming said she decided to apply for the position at Union Elementary after being the principal at a K-12 school in the Eastern Panhandle for more than 11 years.

“Our family business, my husband has a family fishing show, “Fly Rod Chronicles,” and it got to a point of such growth, that I took a couple of years off to open a business office and we decided to return to West Virginia – family first,” she said. “It didn’t take me to realize my most effective and most rewarding position is that of being a principal. I believe God led me directly to Union Elementary School. I have looked other places and wondered why that is not a good fit, but he certainly put me in direct vision of this opening.”

Fleming said her family was filming Fly Rod Chronicles on the New River Gorge when she drove to Upshur County for the interview.

“I just felt immediately this would be a great fit – I feel blessed every day,” she said.

Fleming added she comes to Union Elementary with an innate energy and passion for student achievement and for success in community growth.

“I feel this is a synergized staff that is working toward a common mission,” she said. “It was very impressive for me to know the students recite the mission daily with the morning announcements and that the mission is read at every board meeting. It was so impressive. They are very focused on student achievement.”

She said she is aligned with the ‘Handle with Care’ and trauma-informed programs.

“Looking at the whole student’s success rather than just focusing on test scores alone being the only measurement for growth is a great approach,” she said. “I feel like our goals were aligned from the initial start of this endeavor.”

Along with those programs, Fleming said she has some of her own goals for the students and staff at Union Elementary including growth – growth in student attendance and growth in community involvement.

“It is also my goal to continue to develop grants and new experiences for the students of Union Elementary School to continue the excellent standards here at this school, along with opening the possibilities of other avenues that Union may not have explored yet,” she said. “I think having a vision that is open to new ideas and new experiences is part of being a good administrator.”

While she was in elementary school, she said the most important thing she thinks she learned was how to be a leader.

“I remember helping kindergarten students with math flash cards,” she said. “I felt like I was one of the most important people on earth. I remember gaining that sense of being important and the sense of being smart and being needed and necessary. Being back in an elementary school has brought back that experience to me. I think we need to set our students up for that leadership role and that sense that they are necessary and a critical component of this entire instructional program.”

Surprisingly, being an educator was not Fleming’s original goal when she went to FSU.

“I started out in computer science – technology has always been a heavy interest of mine,” she said. “I love technology, but as a child I always loved playing school. When I was a little kid, I always played like I was a schoolteacher and I wanted my sister to sit down and learn from me. I feel that I am one of the veterans who feel teaching is a calling.”

She said she feels one of the largest obstacles elementary students face today is having to prematurely handle adult situations.

“I think kids today have to grow up more quickly,” she said. “Hopefully, our state is going to turn around quickly with its economics. I think we are thinking outside of the box and think the new aerospace industry that is coming to the state will open up a lot of avenues for our kids.”

Fleming said she want the students at Union Elementary School to have hope for the future.

“I want them to know they can work in this state and have families and have a career as opposed to leaving West Virginia,” she said.

In her spare time, Fleming said she enjoys fly fishing and spending time in the outdoors.

“I would rather be outside, biking or hiking and I really enjoy paddle boarding,” she said. “I hope to share my passion for the outdoors with the school.”

“I feel so blessed that God has put me on this path,” Fleming added. “I just feel, every night when I go home, there is this beautiful sunset and I love it. I keep looking up and saying ‘I get it. I know you want me here.’ I love everything about this school.”

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