INDIANAPOLIS — A Crown Point High School physics teacher encouraged Hoosier lawmakers Wednesday to take risks on behalf of Indiana children and dare to achieve greatness for the state.
Jerome Flewelling, the 2018 Indiana Teacher of the Year, flipped the script on the traditional House ceremony recognizing his achievement by using his moment for speaking to the 100 representatives to teach a lesson in adaptability and perseverance.
Flewelling's unique approach to life was clear even before he addressed the chamber. Rather than stand at either the Democratic or Republican podium at the front of the House, he pushed the two lecterns together and spoke through both microphones.
He told the lawmakers that when he began teaching 21 years ago, he followed the same techniques used by his science teachers: lecture, lab, test.
But he quickly discovered that's not how today's students want to learn.
So he modified his teaching style and these days his pupils learn physics by doing, such as using student-designed catapults to find the best way of launching tennis balls across the football field.
"It's a classroom where my kids are curious, it's a classroom where my kids are challenged, it's a classroom where my kids have to collaborate with each other in order to meet a goal," Flewelling said.
In that same vein, he noted that Indiana lawmakers must work together to accomplish their individual and collective goals.
He then challenged House members to think big by asking themselves: "What's worth doing even if I fail?"
State Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point, who sponsored the Flewelling-honoring House Concurrent Resolution 56 with state Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, said Flewelling's challenge to lawmakers shows why he deserved to be recognized as the state's best teacher.
"Jerome has a big heart for education and his students," Olthoff said. "The time and attention he invests shows his passion for teaching and hopes for the future of each of his students."
Flewelling is the first Northwest Indiana educator named "Teacher of the Year" by the Indiana Department of Education in the 60 years that the award has been presented.