James Bryant headshot

James Bryant

Jefferson Elementary School, McGuffey Elementary School, Walker Elementary School, Lane High School

We were a very special class coming out of Jefferson.  Those of us who came out of Jefferson School, our families were close.  We had the village.  We had the church.  The church was the cornerstone of our community, and we had the community.  If you acted up in school, or if you said something disrespectful, by the time you got home, your mom and dad already knew about it, because that’s how it was in the Black community.  So had it not been for those elders in the community who were revered, and the teachers that lived in our communities who we looked up to because they were role models, and our church — my godfather, the late Henry Mitchell, also served on the school board.  He was the chairman of the Charlottesville School Board when I graduated.  He gave me my diploma.  He told my mother, he said, “James is going to college, and finances will not be an issue for him.”  That was the expectation, you are going to school, whether I wanted to go or not, you’re going.  And that’s how it was, we had that village.  My godmother, the late Gertrude Mitchell, these were people who were inspirational in my life at that time, and they were role models for me, they were my mentors.  And so as a result of that strong — my parents and the community and the church, when I became an educator, I simply gave it all back.  I loved teaching; I loved the children that I taught.  I loved the children that I counseled.  And I’m still at it after 40-plus years.