Firsts are a big thing in American culture: a baby’s first steps, the first time you fall off your bicycle, your kid’s first solo drive; the list goes on forever. One of my distinct firsts is the first time I had a class with Elizabeth (Liz) Flemming. Boy, was that woman a character.
Going into Room 124 that fateful Monday in September of my junior year in high school, I had heard the stories. “Ms. Flemming LIVES on your tears.” “Ultimate feminist.” “She senses your nerves from miles away, show NO FEAR.” Walking into AA Pre-Calc that day, I spotted my three friends who had saved me a seat…right next to Ms. Flemming. Shortly after I got settled in, Ms. Flemming started taking roll. My friends and I couldn’t help but chuckle at Ms. Flemming’s “bloutfit” (all blue outfit). “Anna Pog… wait, no, PogreAbivsHky? Damn it, even after having your sister for a year I still can’t say your last name.” The whole class laughed, but I wasn’t sure if it was at Flemming’s feeble attempt to say my last name or the casual curse word she threw out there. A few minutes later Ms. Flemming finished roll call and cleared her throat. “I have some news, friends,” she said with a sly smile on her face. I exchanged a fearful glance with my friends: news on the first day of class is never good. “Since Mr. McCullough’s retirement, I have been promoted to teach BC Calculus for the next couple years.” Silence. And then the class erupted. You see, AA Pre-Calc at my school is the prerequisite class for BC, so essentially anyone who takes AA junior year takes BC senior year. Can you imagine, the infamous, wondrous, slightly bonkers Ms. Flemming two years in a row? I thought my head was gonna explode.
Now, you’re probably wondering at this moment why you just read an entire paragraph about my high school math teacher. Well, Liz Flemming is no longer only a mere high school math teacher—recently she has taken on a new role as a character in the TV sitcom on ABC, Schooled. Schooled is a spinoff from Adam Goldberg’s The Goldbergs. Adam went to my high school in the 80’s basically attached to his camera. Flash forward three decades, and Adam is producing an entire ABC sitcom based on his years at my high school. It was the talk of the town my freshmen year when The Goldbergs was finally released. While the show changed many aspects of Adam’s time at my school (William Penn Charter School) such as the name of the school (renamed to William Penn Academy), he kept many pieces from his career at PC like our gym teacher Mr. Mellor (yes, I had Mr. Mellor, and yes, his shorts are still VERY short). My favorite part of The Goldbergs was seeing the actual footage Adam had from PC.
In early January 2019, Schooled finally premiered, and I got together with my old high school friends for a watch party. We had heard rumours that many of our favorite teachers would make an appearance. Low and behold, in the second episode (not even 10 minutes in), my girl, Liz Flemming (Lennon Parham), was out and about in all her math-loving, feminist-beholding glory.
So again, if you’re still reading this (which I really hope you are because the best is yet to come), you’re probably still kind of confused as to why I decided to write this article. Well, you see, I wanted to really compare the Ms. Flemming I know to the Ms. Flemming you watched on Schooled (airs weekly on ABC, Wednesdays @ 8:30).
The first thing that really stood out to me was the fact that two of the male teachers in the show, Mr. Mellor (Bryan Callen) and Mr. Glascott (Tim Meadows), were really into Ms. Flemming. As much as I love Ms. Flemming, there’s something about seeing your math teacher being the talk of the teacher break room, if you know what I mean, that puts a bad taste in your mouth. To make it weirder, I know the real-life Mr. Mellor and Mrs. Glascott (Mr. Glascott is supposed to combine our current assistant head of school, Mrs. Glascott, with an older teacher Adam had). Seeing these teachers chase after Ms. Flemming is slightly…weird, frightening, unholy? Another thing that caught my attention was the comment Mellor made about Flemming being the track coach after she lifted an entire cabinet in the show. This is completely true! Ms. Flemming indeed was our women’s track coach for many, many, many years (only recently stepping down). While I can’t see Ms. Flemming ever lifting a whole cabinet, I have seen her carry a gigantic stack of math exams into our class, which is a feat in itself.
Although I can see how Schooled would seem like a bit of a flop in the sitcom department to the average viewer (it has very low ratings), as someone who has a personal connection to many of the characters on the show, I think it is absolutely amazing and hilarious. I can’t wait to see new Liz Flemming scenes in the coming episodes. While I am sure that the show will inevitably be canceled in the next couple of months, I’m savoring seeing the young Ms. Flemming live her epic life.
But seriously, Schooled has yet to do real-life Ms. Flemming enough justice. High schoolers are hard; we live our lives to annoy every teacher we have until they are broken into pieces. Ms. Flemming has persevered, teaching high school math for over three decades. She has undoubtedly inspired many young students. Personally, I owe a lot to Ms. Flemming; she taught me to love math, a subject I had always had a love-hate relationship with (emphasis on the hate). All jokes aside, Ms. Flemming, if by some minor miracle you are reading this article, I just wanted to say thanks for everything and that it’s okay that you still call me by my sister’s name—two years later.
Image Credits: IMDb