A new garden at York Road Elementary School in Rock Hill was dedicated Tuesday to a longtime teacher who friends and colleagues described as a person who would “tell it like it is” – but also showed unwavering love and support for others.
Mary Hall, who died of cancer in October, taught first grade for nearly 20 years at York Road Elementary. In total, she was an educator for 30 years.
“When you hear her name, some wonderful memories come to mind, because Mary was certainly memorable,” said friend and colleague Becky Sanderson.
Sanderson spoke outside the school Tuesday morning, near the playground and parking lot where “Mary’s Garden” sits. The flower and vegetable garden has five planting beds and a sign for the “beloved teacher” who worked at York Road Elementary from 1979 to 2000, when she retired.
The local Floribunda Club, a gardening group of which Hall was a member, donated money for the garden and the special sign in Hall’s memory.
When Alice Hildebrand, a reading coach at the school, was watering the plants in Mary’s Garden on Saturday, a woman walking her dog nearby stopped to talk. The woman remembered Hall as both of her sons’ first-grade teacher.
The woman told Hildebrand, “We’ve always loved Mary Hall.” As for Hildebrand, “That just made my day.”
Hall was named Teacher of the Year multiple times during her career. She also was accepted into the Alpha Delta Kappa honor society for female educators.
Colleagues said Tuesday that Hall was respected by her former students, other teachers, school administrators and parents of the children she taught.
Chuck Hall described his mother as “old school” – a teacher who adored her students but expected good behavior in her classroom. She called her students “her children.”
She encouraged her own three children to not only earn good grades, Hall said, but also to get involved in sports, clubs and church. The Hall family focused on quality time together, he said, and his mother was always supportive.
Hall had such an influence on all those around her, colleague Martha Elliott said, because she understood that to teach children, you first needed to show them three things – that they are loved, valued and believed in.
“Mary always demonstrated that,” Elliott said.
Others described Hall’s teaching style as something they’ve never seen in a book for educators. She commanded respect from students because her philosophy also included “an awful lot of praise and hugs,” said former York Road Elementary Principal Jim Graham.
School officials plan to harvest the vegetables from Mary’s Garden and use it as a teaching tool for students involved in the KACE – Kids About Character and the Environment – Club. Starting in the fall, food from the garden will be donated to the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068