Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney knows the impact a good teacher can make on a young life. Growing up in a single-parent, low-income household, “public education changed my life,” he shared during a session with William & Mary students in the School of Education on Thursday.
Stoney was on campus to meet and recruit top teachers to Richmond. “I know the sort of talent that William & Mary has, and I want that talent in Richmond Public Schools,” he said.
Education is at the top of his administration’s list of priorities, said the mayor. With a new superintendent and Richmond City Council approval to generate $150 million toward new and improved school facilities over the next five years, he said he is committed to “leaning in” to public education.
As the first person in his family to graduate from high school and college, he gives due credit to the teachers he had along the way. “Teachers were my saving grace,” he said. A product of Virginia public schools, he is now the youngest mayor ever elected to serve the city of Richmond at age 35.
As part of his efforts to attract the best new teachers to Richmond Public Schools, he’s touring schools of education around the state to talk to preservice teachers about the opportunities in Richmond. His latest stop was at William & Mary, where he met students in the elementary education, secondary education, special education and school counseling programs, as well as undergraduate students pursuing a minor in education studies.
Stoney said Richmond anticipates 300 openings for teachers this fall, and encouraged the students to look closely at the chance to teach and live in Richmond.
Students engaged in a lively discussion with the mayor, focusing on issues such as support for new teachers, resources for special education, ESL and dual-language offerings, and community partnerships that extend student learning beyond the regular school day.
For Patrick Eberhardt '17, a master’s student in secondary English education with a dual endorsement in ESL education, the mayor’s visit heightened his interest in beginning a teaching career in Richmond. “I am passionate about equity and opportunities for artful, creative education practices that are student-centered,” he said. “I want to work in a place where I can serve a community, and I want to work in a place I will be happy serving that community.”
Mayzie Zechini '17, who is pursuing her master’s in elementary education with a dual endorsement in ESL, already knows she’ll be teaching in Richmond next year. She’s the recipient of a scholarship, established by James E. ’60 and Barbara B. Ukrop ’61, that supports a W&M student who commits to teach for at least one year in Richmond Public Schools.
“While I didn't have to be convinced, it was a comforting and promising conversation to have prior to entering into the school district,” said Zechini. “I am a thirteen-year product of Richmond Public Schools, and know, first-hand, the desperate need for exceptional educators in the city.”