Ivy Schamis: A Teacher of HopeRolling Stone — Tessa Stuart
On Valentine’s Day 2018, a 19-year-old ex-student took an Uber to his old high school; he walked across the campus and into a three-story building, where he killed 17 people and injured 17 more. It was the sixth of 24 shootings in U.S. schools last year, but the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, became the catalyst for a nationwide movement. The school’s students rallied more than half a million people to Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives and galvanized support for some 67 new gun laws.
They became the public face of the tragedy, but back home many families of the victims have spent the year contending, privately, with the consequences of that day. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the tragedy in Parkland, Rolling Stone sat down with some of the survivors, including the Dworet family; students Maddy and John Wilford; graduate Chris Grady; Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime in the shooting; and teacher Ivy Schamis.
Everything in Room 1214, where Ivy Schamis taught a popular elective on the Holocaust, is exactly as it was on February 14th, 2018: books, years of lesson plans, the big yellow “We Will Never Forget” banner gifted to her by a Holocaust survivor. “It was a classroom of hope,” she says. “You would know when you came in.” Now, “it’s a crime scene. We can’t get in there even to this day.”
She was in the middle of a lesson about the 1936 Berlin Olympics; Nick Dworet had just raised his hand to answer a question. “That very second, that’s when the shots rang out,” Schamis says. “He had literally the last words in my class.”
This year, the lessons and the visits from Holocaust survivors feel more urgent than ever. “Many of the survivors feel that they can relate because, you know, we were a target of a hater,” she says. “I think the hashtag Never Again came from the class.”
Now she’s teaching from a portable classroom on the edge of campus. It has flimsy walls, no “hard corners” — the part of the room where you can shelter out of a shooter’s line of sight. Even so, Schamis says she never considered not returning. She’s taught at Stoneman Douglas for 18 years; her two grown children are graduates: “It helps being at school. It’s a different kind of bond, that we’ve all been through this together…The best thing has been the opportunity to teach the students about resilience.”