Duval County

Permanent memorial at Atlantic Coast High to be built for slain teacher

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Vivian James was a caring, yet tough teacher at Atlantic Coast High School for the last decade.

“She was more than just your average teacher,” said Kaleb Lawrence, a senior at Atlantic Coast High School.

She was an educator that was absolutely adored by her students and colleagues.

“Having her as a teacher is like an experience like no other,” said Lawrence.

She was full of life and she taught her students valuable life lessons.

“She’d always say, 'Don’t be afraid to ask anyone anything, ‘cause the most that they could say is no.’”

That’s why the news that she wouldn’t be back at school after break was crushing to so many.

James was found dead in her home in Cedar Hills on Saturday. Police say they’re investigating her death as a murder, but no suspects have been named or arrested at this time.

Lawrence recalled, “The first night I found out, I was just balling.”

He said Atlantic Coast will never be the same.

Since learning about James’ death, the school has raised over $1,000 to create a permanent memorial in her honor.

“Hopefully, students and teachers can remember her when they walk by or if they want to stop by and have a seat on a bench and just think about her,” said Atlantic Coast TV Production teacher Chad Cushnir.

It’s a project Lawrence and so many others believe is necessary.

“We have to have something physical that everyone can see that’s like, ‘Hey, here’s this legendary teacher that touched the lives of so many kids.'”

A visible tribute to a woman, a mother, a teacher who cared deeply for those she had the pleasure of teaching and knowing.

“We can’t see her anymore, but I can feel her in my heart. I can feel all the lessons she taught. I can feel the impact she had on so many other people,” Lawrence said.

Students are heading back to class on Tuesday next week. Lawrence said it will be hard for everyone who has to pass her classroom.

Atlantic Coast will have grief counselors on campus.