Chances are if you have traveled down Highway 119 in Alabaster during rush hour traffic then you might have done a double-take at one Shelby County teacher and his chosen mode of transportation to and from work. That is because Geoffrey Wymer, a math teacher at New Directions, chooses to ride a unicycle to work each day.
“I think I have made it onto several people’s Facebook and Instagram pages,” Wymer joked. “People usually take photos of me as they pass by.”
Wymer first started riding a unicycle when he was a 10-year-old child. He didn’t ride one for 32 years, until about three years ago when he decided to put his old unicycle back together and take it for a spin. And apparently, just as one never forgets how to ride a bicycle, the same is also true with unicycles.
“I wobbled around a little bit, but I basically picked it right back up. To learn to ride a bicycle you learn to balance side to side,” Wymer explained. “To ride a unicycle, you have to learn to balance front to back and how to master the resistance of the pedals.”
Once Wymer climbed back onto his unicycle, he then proceeded to teach four kids in his neighborhood and his own son how to ride. One of the neighborhood kids, in turn, taught his father how to ride. Now, the entire group has become active in the growing extreme sports of mountain unicycling and unicycle trials.
“Mountain unicycling, or muni for short, is riding unicycles on mountain bike trails, like the ones at Oak Mountain State Park,” Wymer said. “Unicycle trials is similar to skateboarding or BMX, where you do tricks using various types of obstacles. Two of the kids that I taught to ride, Will Streets and Elijah Rotenberry, are the ones doing the unicycle trials. I stick to doing the muni riding.”
Wymer and his friends have planned the first S.T.O.M.P (Southern Trails of Oak Mountain Park) Muni Fest for November 1-3 at Oak Mountain State Park. They are inviting other unicycle enthusiasts, or those who are interested in learning to ride, to come and join them for the event. More information can be found at http://stompmunifest.blogspot.com.
Unicycling is not the only hobby for Wymer, who was just named Teacher of the Year by his peers at New Directions. He is also a gifted woodcarver and does customized carvings for electric guitars. He plays multiple musical instruments, including the bag pipes, guitar, piano, French horn, trumpet, and baritone. Wymer was also Russian cryptologic linguist for the Air Force and was a 20-year-old airman stationed in Berlin, Germany on November 9, 1989 – the day the Berlin Wall came down.
“He is a cook, a carpenter, you name it,” said his principal, Dr. George Theodore. “He is also an oustanding teacher.”
Wymer taught for eight years, before taking a seven year break to work in retail management. He returned to teaching two years ago and uses his hobbies and experiences to help students understand why they need to understand math.
“He does an outstanding job of connecting mathematical concepts to real-world situations and he relates very well with his students,” said Dr. Theodore of Wymer’s teaching strengths. “He is able to connect with students in grades 6-12 and teaches several courses within the same class period. He is very creative in his teaching strategies and makes the subject meaningful. When students come to New Direction, he assesses where they are in their knowledge of mathematics. He goes where the students are in their knowledge of math, not where they should be or where he wants them to be.”