Striking a chord with the kids

Leading the strings and orchestra program at Phoenix Country Day School is a responsibility Maurine Fleming doesn’t take lightly.

“I wasn’t always a teacher,” said Fleming. “When I graduated college, everyone expected me to teach. But I wasn’t ready, I knew I needed to be ready to fully commit.”

Fleming began playing saxophone and cello as a child. She grew up in Mesa, where she explains; there was a very supportive arts program.

Fleming continued to play music, and eventually went on to ASU, while also studying in New York, at USC, and the Aspen Music School. Fleming graduated with a degree in performance and still regularly plays with the Phoenix Symphony and Opera. As a freelance musician, Fleming is called on to play with acts arriving in Phoenix, some of the most memorable being with Rod Stewart, Smokey Robinson, Bob Hope, and her favorite of all time, George Burns.

Fifteen years ago, however, Fleming finally decided it was time to settle down. She took a job in Tempe in the Kyrene School District and then, five years later, took the position as strings and orchestra teacher at PCDS.

“I take my job very seriously,” said Fleming. “I know I’m making a commitment to the kids, to the parents and to entire families.”

To PCDS student Evan Pittman, Ms. Fleming has made such an impact on his life that he was inspired to write a nomination for the Arcadia News Teachers We Love award.

“Ms. Fleming is kind, caring, selfless, inclusive and a great listener,” said Evan. “She is always interested in getting feedback from the students in her class, but even more importantly, her classroom is a warm, safe place where students feel comfortable.”

Evan, who began taking violin lessons at 6 years old, has played the national anthem at Arizona Diamondback’s games, the Veteran’s Day Parade, and regularly plays in nursing homes and with the St. Thomas the Apostle weekly Mass choir. With all his accomplishments, giving back to the community is incredibly important to him.

“Evan suggested nominating Maurine Fleming. Having grown up in a military family environment, Evan has always been taught to follow through and execute on his ideas. He sat down at the computer and wrote up a paragraph,” said Rebecca Feaster, Evan’s mom.

Feaster is thankful that her son has such a supportive, kind teacher in his life.

“Ms. Fleming has become like a second mother to Evan,” said Feaster. “She is always there for him and all her students.”

To Fleming, there is no other way to teach her students.

“There is something special about being a music teacher,” said Fleming. “We don’t just get the kids for one year, we are blessed to have them for many years and we really get to be there as they grow up.”