It should come as no surprise that many hearts were broken when it was announced that Hallmark Elementary School would be demolished. The history inside that building can never be replaced.
I had the honor of being the last principal at Hallmark, and I can honestly say those seven years were the best of my 33-year career. There will never be another Hallmark Elementary School, and I know many others that feel the same way.
I reached out to former Hallmark teachers, staff, and students and asked what they thought the walls would say, one last time before they are torn down, and here is what people had to say:
If the walls at Hallmark could talk…
“They would tell you how much they learned every day just by listening to all the hardworking teachers instructing their students. The students loved coming to school and worked hard to achieve their goals. Each morning as the doors opened, shouts of ‘Good Morning’ would vibrate the floors. Hallmark was not only a school; it was our home. -Tonya L., Hallmark Teacher
“Despite the lack of food, shelter, and sometimes even a loving family, all students want to learn. Hallmark gave every student the opportunity to discover not only the basic subjects but the world around them. Our students not only came to school, but too many times it was their refuge. Many times, Hallmark teachers were all that they had.” -Tiffany, Hallmark Teacher
“The students cared about learning because they knew the faculty cared about them. Every student said our slogan with Dr. Cagle every morning, ‘If you think you can, you will!’ Working there is more a calling than a job. It was a very special time with many wonderful memories. “ – -Gena, Hallmark Teacher
“The walls would speak of the tremendous respect and gratitude that I have as a parent for the amazing people who taught and loved children like their very own. Hallmark changed so many people’s lives. It brought a community together and inspired so many children to do their best.” -Barbara, Hallmark Parent
“When I think of Hallmark, I think of the sweet eager faces coming into the building in the morning. The children were so happy to be there back to the teachers who understood them, loved them, and worked so hard to support their learning.” -M. J., District Support
“My late husband’s family built the school, they walked the halls as students and returned years later to celebrate their anniversary. Now that they are all deceased, I find that each of their spirits lives within those walls and it has become a Herrington family legacy. It feels as if the building itself has personified itself within the hearts of all who called it home. Dr. Cagle told me, ‘Once a Dragon, always a Dragon.’ I still have my Dragon pin. Hallmark is the ‘house’ that built me. -Terri, Hallmark Student Teacher
“You would hear the laughter of children, the excitement from teachers and students when they met goals and finally grasped a concept, they cheered when successes were accomplished, and the joy of learning. Love seeps out of all the cracks.” -Tonya S., Hallmark Teacher
“The walls would speak of a beginning teacher that found her passion, calling and gift in teaching. I was molded and trained in a way that impacted my teaching for the next 15 years. I credit my teaching today back to my roots at Hallmark.” -Miranda, Hallmark Teacher
“They would say ‘trust me.’ They would say you are safe here, loved here, and will learn here. You can be proud here. You have friends here. Family here. There is food here. There is love here.” -Linda, District Support
“They would tell a story of teachers whose principal respected them as professionals and challenged them every day to give their best for all students. They would tell of teachers and staff who ensured that all students’ needs were met—a new pair of shoes, a backpack full of food for the weekend, a box of books for summer vacation, Science Club on Saturdays, mentors from the community, after school tutoring, expectations for success, and a plan to achieve it.”
-Matthew, Hallmark Teacher
“They would tell the stories of volunteers inspired by passionate leadership. Volunteers who came as mentors and became impassioned about the needs, their needs, their homes, their problems and became activists for these students to be the best they can be. They learned too. They cried, cheered and supported. They helped students grow broccoli, beans, and carrots because their principal wanted to teach the students to be able to take care of themselves. They helped with the first backpack program. The volunteers were as much a part of Hallmark as the faculty, staff, and students.” -Liz, Hallmark Mentor and Partner in Education
“Teachers were encouraged to look beyond the surface to help fix problems in individual children that kept them from learning. As a result of teachers being able to teach ‘their’ way to each individual in ‘his’ way, children took pleasure in learning. The confidence teachers had in children’s success made the children confident they could learn and succeed. This positive attitude provided a happy learning environment for teacher and children.”-Sandee, Hallmark Teacher
“The walls would speak of how Dr. Cagle had her wedding at the school so her students could be part of the celebration. The walls would tell how we went from being a ‘F’ school to an ‘A’ school. The walls of Hallmark shouldn’t be silenced, and if you listen carefully, you can hear them asking not to be destroyed.” -Adrienne, Hallmark Extended Day Director
“The end of third grade was the end of Hallmark Elementary School. I knew as I walked out of the building holding Dr. Cagle’s hand, I was the last student to ever walk through the doors of the school. I may have only been nine years old, but I understood that something wonderful was coming to an end. A demolition permit may be able to crush the school, but nothing will crush the spirit of George S. Hallmark Elementary.” -Jorden, Hallmark Student
“Teaching at Hallmark was more than an opportunity, it was an honor. Hallmark opened her doors day after day providing a safe and loving home away from home for more than 80 years. Like Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree,’ Hallmark has given until she has nothing left to give. If these walls could talk, you would hear them say, save me. Save me like I saved so many of you.
-Dian, Hallmark Teacher
Sheree Cagle is a Regional Superintendent in the Duval County School District. She served as principal of George S. Hallmark Elementary for seven years and was the first principal of Global Learning Academy in Pensacola.