Teachers and students at Eastern High School are still mourning the loss of Tyree Smith—the 16-year-old junior who was shot and killed while waiting for his school bus last Wednesday morning.

Tyree Smith’s ninth grade English teacher Emily Kolb remembers him as a “burst of energy,” even in first period when his classmates were still sluggish with sleep.

“Ty would come in, he would literally just light up the room,” Kolb said. “He had really dynamic energy, and he was always engaged with his peers.”

He could relate to anyone, Kolb said: gamers, cheerleaders, football players. And he would talk to anybody, no matter how she arranged the seating chart.

“He would look at you and be like, ‘You can put me anywhere because I’m going to talk to anybody wherever you put my seat,’” Kolb said.

Tyree Smith's ninth grade English teacher Emily Kolb.Jess Clark |

Tyree Smith’s ninth grade English teacher Emily Kolb.

Smith’s favorite days were when Kolb organized “socratic circles”—discussions and debates students would have based on news articles or current events.

“He was really a leader,” Kolb said. “I could walk out of the classroom and let Ty lead that lesson because he would be so on point with the article, so on point with discussion.” 

He helped his classmates rise to the occasion with his insightful questions, she said.

Kolb remembers Smith’s habit of leaning far back in his chair, tipping it off the floor, while he twirled his hair in his fingers. It made her nervous.

“As a teacher you always think, ‘You’re going to fall and you’re going to knock your head!’” she said.

Students and staff piled flowers around Eastern's flagpole in honor of Tyree Smith.Jess Clark |

Students and staff piled flowers around Eastern’s flagpole in honor of Tyree Smith.

He was always smiling, Kolb said. And he was often proud of his work, sometimes waving her over to check out a paragraph he had written.

“He was an amazing student. He’s gonna definitely be missed,” she said.

On Tuesday afternoon, bouquets of flowers were still piled around the flagpole at the school’s entrance, in memory of Smith.


Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.