LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Lolita Flagg-Fleming

Position: Science Teacher
School: Technology High School
School District: Newark Public Schools
City, State: Newark, NJ

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Lolita Flagg-Fleming was nominated by an anonymous family member.

Unstoppable. Focused. Essential. Ms. Flagg is her name. She has been a teacher for more than 25 years. Nothing has stood too long in her way that she could not knock down.  Equipped with faith and perseverance, she has overcome educational dilemmas, health concerns, and now, a pandemic. 

Ms. Flagg is an extraordinary high school science teacher who strives to not only provide exceptional pedagogy, but improve the perspective and the quality of life of her students, whom she affectionately calls her “children." Similar to the scientific method, Ms. Flagg consistently approaches life’s challenges with clear logic, while testing and experimenting with exciting evidence-based solutions along the way.  Her care and concern for her students and profession are exceptional qualities for a great leader.

Growing up in the inner-city is challenging by many accounts.  While many educators and professionals come into the city simply for economic gain, Ms. Flagg maintains residence in a community of need. She has become a pillar of strength in her community and to her students, who are, in some cases, struggling mentally, economically, and spiritually. While the world continues to bend under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Flagg always reminds her students that they are resilient. She reminds her students that they are not a statistic, but a blessing chosen for greatness, no matter what the situation. Consistent encouragement and external support are some of the ways Ms. Flagg is helping her students cope with the overwhelming situation we are currently living through.  

When talking about her students, Ms. Flagg often reminisces about seeing her students face to face.  Ms. Flagg described the way she would look them in the eye and get them to do their best, not only in their coursework, but in building courage.  As she described some of the students, sadness poured over her when she talked about how the pandemic is especially damaging to children who struggled to make connections while in school and those who lacked direction. As a nurturer, she speaks to how she was able to reach them by staying after school and coming in early every morning to encourage them.  Even a simple word can have dramatic importance to a developing student, and Ms. Flagg’s nature is to always speak positivity and life into her students. Although her students called it tutoring, this is when she would not only break down the elements of gravitational forces, but speak life into their situations. While taking care of their mental state and giving love, tutoring becomes a refuge for students.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the world to change significantly, and Ms. Flagg has been as malleable as the situation. She has always been trying to get the best from her students, so she developed early morning tutoring sessions for her students and called them parties! In referring to these events, Ms. Flagg would say, “Who knew Milk & Cereal Parties would be a big hit? They really are engaged!” 

A LifeChanger is innovative, and Ms. Flagg demonstrates a widely-held cultural practice of using comfort food to build supportive relationships with students. Everyone remembers what it feels like to wake up in the morning and eat a bowl of cereal. Ms. Flagg uses these past memories as a catalyst for powering the mind and for promoting wellbeing.  These learning “parties” began trending throughout the halls, and her classroom soon became filled with students during breakfast and eventually lunch-time.  Her classroom was the students' refuge from stress, a study hall, and a gathering place to brainstorm. She is an educator who greets every student by name at the door and gives positive reinforcements whenever she has the opportunity. 

Ms. Flagg likes to engage students even before they enter the classroom.  She knows how a student is doing simply by how they walk in the halls to her classroom, or by how they stand by their lockers during breaks. She even knows how to gauge a student by their verbal and nonverbal participation in the class. These are qualities of an alert, compassionate, reassuring, and concerned role model, all of which are evident in Ms. Flagg. 

Despite the halt of in-person education, Ms. Flagg continues to connect with her students on a one on one basis. She continues to tutor virtually and is creating interesting games and rewards to keep students engaged in their success.  She also continues to give students daily words of encouragement, her blessings, and spiritual support to those seeking a faith refuge. Science class is still alive and active, but conducted virtually. During these unforeseen times, she is preparing her students to identity the problem, form a hypothesis, test it, and not give up until they have solved the problem. She says “Don’t settle for less when you could have given me your best.” Although her routine has changed, her message has not.  “No matter what, you are meant for greatness. You are Queens and Kings; now walk the walk.”

"Ms. Flagg has always been a LifeChanger. Her students will remember how she listened, how she impacted them, and how she encouraged them to believe in themselves and look beyond their situation," her nominator said. "Even when she faced her own health challenges, there were no signs of slowing her down. Therefore, it is my pleasure to show my support for Ms. Lolita Flagg to be given the LifeChanger award in recognition of her years of commitment to our future Queens and Kings."