City of Minneola honors school principal with naming of roadway

Mama Hawk Way sign placed as Minneola High School principal retires

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – The school community in Lake County is getting ready to say farewell to one of their most beloved educators.

Known as “Mama Hawk”, Linda Shepherd-Miller is retiring at the end of the school year — leaving behind a legacy of compassion and dedication to students and staff at Minneola High School.

“We decided Mama Hawk Way because it has a double entendre to it. There’s Mama Hawk Way as the road, but then there’s the ‘Mama Hawk way,’ which is always be respectful and treat people the way that you want to be treated,” Mayor Pat Kelley of Minneola said. “From hiring all the teachers, coming up with a curriculum, to as far as the creed, the crest, the colors… everything about this school she was involved in, and this school is Mama Hawk.”

As a token of appreciation, the city of Minneola is honoring Shepherd’s 37 years of service to students by renaming a portion of Fosgate road at the intersection where the high school sits.

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“It’s gonna bring another of pride for the green and gold to have that up there for all students to come,” Cindy Page, assistant principal of Lake Minneola High school, said. “Mama Hawk is… she’s just amazing. She will give until she can give no more.”

“Mama Hawk” has been the school principal since its inception in 2011. According to the school principal, it was during that first school year that her nickname was given by students.

“The first semester that the school was open, I unfortunately wasn’t here at that time, but I’ve heard the story. One of the kids just said that they were gonna call her Mama Hawk, and at first, she really didn’t want that title, you know,” Page said. “Then the kids were very persistent, and since then, she’s kind of embraced that title, and every day she says to the kids, at least twice a day, ‘Remember, Mama Hawk loves you.’ And she truly means it for every one of the students.”

Shepherd-Miller’s upcoming retirement will be bittersweet for Page.

“It’s been an amazing journey to work for Ms. Shepherd. Mama Hawk has imparted upon me as a professional the way that I should treat individuals,” Page said. “That last day is gonna be really difficult. There’s been tears throughout the year. We’ve known that the retirement is happening this year,” Page said.

In April, the school renamed the academic wing to Linda K. Shepherd in her honor. An educator who the class of 2023 made sure to remind her of just how loved she is by pranking her with 2,023 3X5 pictures throughout the school, including her office.

“They’ve been spread across campus. Their last day was May 12, and so when we came in that morning, we were bombarded by Mama Hawk’s face, which was amazing,” Page recalled. “And then throughout the day, the kids started collecting them and coming up and getting autographs from her.”

The Mama Hawk Way sign recently placed is a temporary sign. The city of Minneola hopes to have the permanent sign placed by the start of the new school year.

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