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ECC Instructor Receives Order of the Long Leaf Pine

ECC instructor Monika Fleming recently received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in recognition of her outstanding career as an educator and her work as an unofficial historian for Edgecombe and Nash counties.

Edgecombe Community College instructor and area historian Monika Fleming recently received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

When presenting the prestigious award to Fleming, Tarboro Mayor Joe Pitt says it was a very happy moment for him as mayor to have a local citizen so deserving of the honor.

“I feel sorry for other communities who don’t have a Monika Fleming in their midst, because she certainly is an asset to this area,” Pitt says. “Her excitement is as important as her research and her academic work because she makes the citizens of Edgecombe County excited about our history in a way that brings it to life and makes us feel related to the past.”

Pitt presented the honor to Fleming via an official proclamation from Governor Cooper at the Tarboro Town Council monthly meeting in May. “It was a very proud moment for me, something special I was able to do for someone for whom I have so much admiration and respect,” Pitt says.

Fleming says the ceremony was a complete surprise. “My husband insisted we had to go into the meeting, and then we were going out to eat,” she explains.

“I thought it was kind of unusually crowded with people when we went in.” Fleming says when Pitt called her to come up to the front of the room, and she looked to the back of the room and saw so many friends, she knew something was up. “But never in a million years did I think I would receive such an honor.”

The official award recognizes Fleming’s outstanding career as an educator at Edgecombe Community College and her dedication to being an unofficial historian for Edgecombe and Nash counties. She has studied and written about the history of the Twin Counties from the 1700s to the present.

Fleming is the founding director of Edgecombe Community College’s Historic Preservation Technology program and has taught English composition and literature and American, world, and North Carolina history for more than 30 years at ECC.

Fleming says teaching history is her passion. “I truly believe we can’t look to the future unless we understand and study our past,” she says. “Discovering information, events, and learning the stories of people who came before us is part of figuring out things now. We are tied to our past, and I love making history become stories to which my students can relate, not just facts and figures.”

Fleming says one of her favorite aspects of teaching her American History II class is the students’ oral history projects. Students are required to interview an older family member or member of their community to learn about that person’s past.

“It’s so rewarding when the students come to me and are excited because they learned something new about their families, something they’re really proud of. The project helps them form a connection with their family member and a connection to their history – it makes it real and relatable,” Fleming says.

She adds that receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine was a humbling experience. “I know my North Carolina history, and I know I’m included in a group of great North Carolinians. I’m so honored to be included in that group,” she says.

In addition to Governor Cooper recognizing Fleming, her honor was noticed by other North Carolina notables. U.S. Senator Thom Tillis says Fleming’s work will leave a lasting legacy for North Carolina.

“I want to congratulate Monika Fleming on receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine,” says Senator Tillis. “Ms. Fleming’s work educating students at Edgecombe Community College and preserving the history of Edgecombe and Nash counties will long be remembered, and I join her friends and family to celebrate her receiving this well-deserved award.”

Fleming says that while the Order of the Long Leaf Pine is bestowed on some recipients on their retirement, this is not the case for her. She has no plans to retire.

“I love being able to help students understand that knowing our history is the key to our future. I love teaching them about our history with stories of perseverance, determination, surmounting obstacles, and learning the importance of being self-sufficient,” she explains.

“I hope to show all of my students that the link between the past and the future is them, it’s us, those of us learning from it and using it to make sense of our present and future.”