DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — The day before students return to the classroom from winter break, teachers are already in their chairs training for the last half of the school year.

Leading those teachers at Heard Elementary School in Dothan is Principal Tamika Fleming.

“To see our students and our teachers reach goals is just amazing,” Fleming said.

Fleming has been an educator for 26 years. She began her career in 1997 as a fourth-grade teacher at Abbeville Elementary School.

The Memphis native moved to Dothan in high school and graduated from Northview.

Changing schools so frequently in her youth sparked a passion and compassion for elementary students.

“My teachers, the people I encountered, my friends, I needed those adults outside of my family to help me through what I was going through as an elementary student, so I felt the need to do that same thing for other students,” Fleming said.

Growing up, Fleming always played the role of “teacher” when playing school with her cousins.

“It was always something I wanted to do,” Fleming said.

She knew from the start, education was her calling.

“Always something I needed to do to fulfill my own purpose in life,” Fleming said.

Fleming received her bachelor’s in elementary education from Troy State University in 1996 and eventually got her master’s from Troy University – Dothan.

After spending her first professional years at Abbeville, she returned to the Circle City, where she taught and led schools for nearly a quarter of a century.

This is her fourth year as principal at Heard.

“She truly does step in, pitch in and do whatever needs to be done to make sure that the school is successful,” Heard Elementary School Assistant Principal Jimmy Baker said.

Talk to the people she works with and they’ll tell you her servant leadership sets her apart.

“She is the principal of the building, however, she does whatever needs to be done, whether that is working in the lunchroom, serving students, serving meals, teaching in the classroom, teaching students, modeling for teachers and staff,” Baker said.

For Fleming, communication is key to successful leadership.

“I do believe that everyone should be seen and heard so it’s important that I hear their voice because a lot of times when things are challenging, it’s because someone just wants to be heard,” Fleming said.

When she’s not arriving early or staying late at school she’s with her family.

Fleming’s husband is a fellow educator; their son is pursuing an education degree and their daughter is going into nursing.

Leading an elementary school, being a wife and a mother would be a lot on anyone’s plate, but she doesn’t consider herself remarkable.

She credits her family’s support and the Heard Elementary teachers.

“I’m just blessed to be on their team more than them being a part of my team because they’re the ones doing the work,” Fleming said. “They’re the ones putting in the timeless hours and efforts to make sure our students learn and grow.”

She hopes to leave the legacy of someone who has the best interests of children at heart.

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