When Libby Germer started teaching at Wythe High School in Richmond, it was her first time teaching at a school where most of her students didn't look like her. Only 9-percent of Richmond Public School students are white, three-quarters qualify for free and reduced lunch.
A year ago, Germer and three of her students spoke at a panel on supporting public schools in the city. Soon after we recorded this conversation between Germer and one of those students, Tyler Hoffler. At the time Hoffler was a junior. This week, Hoffler graduates from high school. He's already enlisted in the Marines.
Some excerpts from the interview:
Hoffler: "What's the most shocking thing that happened to you since being at George Wythe?"
Germer: "I had a student who, he and his best friend were driving in a car and they shot a man in the face in front of a hotel one night on Broad Street. I just really had taken him under my wing and was watching out for him. And to know that he and his best friend took the independence granted them and went out and committed a crime with it, the first week he had his license.
It just shook me to the core.
What is the most shocking thing that you've ever dealt with at our high school?"
Hoffler: "It was a fight at school. It was a big fight, and it was like five people fighting. A friend of mine that I've known since I was a freshman, he was older than me, he got stabbed. It's shocking to think something like that could happen, just like that."
Germer: "Do you feel safe at our school?"
Hoffler: "Yeah, I mean, I don't carry myself to make too many enemies. I'm cool, I'm chill, I don't really like drama, so I stay out the way. I tend to make a lot of friends, so even if I have enemies my friends got my back. It's not what you want, but it's home.
I grew up in Jackson Ward, it was gun shots all the time. My mom never really let me go outside too much. It used to get to the point where I'm used to gun shots...
You say you have two kids, right? How would you feel about letting them go to George Wythe?"
Germer: "This is my hope, that in about ten years when they're ready for high school, sure I would love for them to go to George Wythe. The Wythe of our dreams. The Wythe where kids aren't treated like criminals and they don't act like criminals...
I have ideas... one of these days I want the band to do like a flashmob in the cafeteria in the middle of the day. I want to start the day with awesome music, like pumping through the speakers... We are so afraid of all the kids being in one place at the same time that we miss opportunities to have fun in community at George Wythe. So when those things are going on, the Wythe of my dreams, sure I would love for them to go there."