When Jeanne Hall started working at Destrehan High School, she intended it to be a temporary job but that was before something happened that kept her there nearly 30 years.
“I’ve been there so long and gotten so close to so many families and students,” Hall said. “I just got intertwined into it all I guess. It was my blessing – my job. I never thought of it as a job … I thought of it as a calling.”
She considered all the children, parents and grandparents her extended family, and Hall couldn’t leave them.
When she first came to the school as a substitute teacher, Hall intended it to be temporary work until she could go to college to get a teaching degree. But then she became a detention monitor and finally a school office specialist, a job that significantly changed her path.
“Hands down … it was the students,” said Hall of what bound her passionately to her job. “The young people I got close to … it was so refreshing. These young people were just phenomenal and they just wanted somebody to care. They appreciated me for caring about them, and maybe I made a difference.”
It was unexpected for her, but a welcome opportunity to be more than the job.
“The DHS students mattered so much to me,” Hall said. “I gave them everything I had. I think I ended up mentoring, counseling and helping so much outside my job description. People wouldn’t have understood that … I saw it as important to make the children feel loved.”
For someone who has lived in St. Charles Parish nearly all her life, Hall welcomed meeting so many people and becoming involved in so many families in the community.
“I’ve been fortunate to know so many children and parents, as well as grandparents and generations of them,” she said. “I saw many of them born as babies, and my kids all went through DHS, too, and all their friends and their children came through, too.”
Hall had even grown into the lives of people living around the school.
The world from her desk extended far beyond the high school.
One day her telephone rang from a nearby gas station on the other end who announced, “I really think the girl should wear silver because it’ll match her dress better.” Hall replied, “What?” the caller laughed hard until he finally explained that she’d left on the intercom and everyone heard her conversation with her oldest daughter about what she was going to wear to the prom.
It was a loud intercom system and so much so her sister-in-law, who lives in the neighborhood, told her they were going to miss hearing her voice for morning announcements.
Over the years, Hall also observed DHS nearly double from 700 to more than 1,400 students. But she said it didn’t change the school’s “very close, family feeling.”
But she did see it become more impersonal with the arrival of cell phones and social media.
“It has sort of taken away from face-to-face time with the students and school staff and administration,” Hall said. “People talk less … there’s less of the human touch. I think it’s kind of sad.”
But, at DHS, her objective and hope remained fixed on making a difference in the students’ lives – and she did.
“I was truly blessed and tell people that all the time. I know the young people are good and kind and smart.” — Jeanne Hall
Upon news of her retirement, former students came by to tell her that they wouldn’t have made it without her.
There were some she couldn’t help and she wonders if it was because she didn’t have more time to give them on her typically busy job.
“From the most fortunate to the least fortunate, they just wanted to know if you genuinely cared about them,” Hall said. “They just want to know you care. Some students have the feeling that no one cares that they’re there, but they all just want to know that they’re important.
And Hall tried to let them know it.
She also remembers the students lost along the way.
It was hard to walk away, but Hall said her plans include remaining a loyal DHS football fan and attending the games, as well as spending time with her family. She’s also confident about what the future holds for the students of DHS.
“I was truly blessed and tell people that all the time,” Hall said. “I know the young people are good and kind and smart. They will take care of us. We’re a great community. I wonder if the people St. Charles Parish really know how fortunate we are.”
But, above all, she also sought to pass on these experiences to two of her daughters who now teach at DHS and Hahnville High School.
“I told them they would be successful if they kept the child’s welfare at the forefront,” Hall said. “That is why we’re there. Our employee is the student. That is who I work for and help to make their lives better … and to make them better people.”