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Health & PE department faces setbacks

SUN. | 10-16-22 | FEATURES

Developing a routine can allow for easier processes. Since one task always follows another, things can run much faster and smoother for some people. But what happens when a routine is uprooted by unforeseen events? If you’re like the Rose Health and Physical Education (PE) Department, you take it one step at a time and work together.

     In November, health and PE teacher, football and baseball coach, Stephen Lovett went to his local doctor after not feeling well during football season. They told him that he had a low


Photo by Maya Swaggerty

blood count and they referred Lovett to Chapel Hill, after doing some work here.

     “I actually got diagnosed on November 24th…with liver cancer,” Lovett said. “It's not metastatic, it's just in the liver and a couple of lymph nodes outside the liver and it's not spreading.”

     It was hard for Lovett to believe the news he had just been given.

     “Down the road going home from Chapel Hill, where I had got diagnosed, and I’m thinking how I felt like I got hit with a two-by-four,” Lovett said. “It was a shock and kind of like ‘wow,’ took a few minutes to settle in.”

     PE department chair Liz Barbee is a coworker and friend of Lovett. Barbee had trouble coming to terms with the fact that Lovett had cancer.

     “It was tough because he's such a great guy and he does so much for the kids; you won’t find another coach who cares about the kids as much as Lovett cares about the kids,” Barbee said. “He works really hard and you know the kids are always first in his mind and it's hard to find that with most teachers these days.”

     Barbee and former Rose PE teacher Garrett Wingate were prepared to step up upon hearing the news about Lovett.

     “As a PE teacher you kind of have to go with the flow as it is; you don’t always have access to the gym, it's not going to always be a controlled environment and there’s a lot of ‘what if's' so you have to learn to be flexible,” Barbee said.

     When the word started to get out last year about Lovett having cancer, everyone wanted to help. Barbee and English teacher Karen Medlin teamed up and sent out an email to staff. This email consisted of Lovett’s favorite things so they could make a basket for him.

     “Everybody loves Lovett; Rose loves Lovett so we arranged all of that and got an amazing amount of donations from the Rose faculty and parents, and he was super emotional and very thankful when we gave it to him,” Barbee said. “We’re actually getting a meal train started right now because he's not doing so well again.”

     Lovett said he couldn’t ask for a better support system than the one he has now.

     “I heard a long time ago, in a speech just watching something random,…‘With cancer you fight as hard as you can, and then other people have to fight for you’,” Lovett said. “That's what I think Rose High has done for me and my family has done the same.”

     Despite his diagnosis, Lovett will always put his students first.

     “I’m gonna always put the kids first, don’t matter the background, because I was that kid one time, and that will never change,” Lovett said. “With cancer, people say the toughest thing about it is you always know it's there, you always know you have it and being in school or being at practice helps me not think about having cancer.”

     After four years, Wingate made the decision to depart from the Rose faculty in early August.

     “Wingate was pursuing growth opportunities; he wanted to advance his football career,” Barbee said. “He took a position as the offensive coordinator at Northern Nash High School.”

     Losing Wingate was an unexpected setback for the health and PE department, but they took it one step at a time and worked together. Wingate has been replaced by Jimmy Cuccurello, Barbee’s student teacher from last school year, in a long-term substitute teacher position. Cuccurello is more commonly known to students and coworkers as Coach C.

     “Replacing Coach Wingate is not easy, but Coach C has done a great job, you couldn’t ask for anything else,” Lovett said. “He is filling a big void that was left by coach Wingate.”

     The timing of Wingate’s departure is the reason a long term sub was hired instead of a permanent teacher.

     “Wingate left pretty late in the game so it was hard to find somebody, most people had already secured positions at that point so there weren’t many candidates who applied,” Barbee said. “The very few who did apply weren’t exactly what we were looking for to hire full time, so we’re sticking with a long term sub for now, hoping we can get somebody either after the fall semester or at the end of the year.”

     When Lovett is out sick, Barbee is the only teacher there, since Cuccurello is a sub. During those times, the weight on Barbee’s shoulders can be a lot to handle, but she does what she can for Lovett and Wingate’s classes to make them run as smoothly and normal as possible.

     “Right now Lovett’s [class] is in health so I’ve got to go set up his stuff, then get back to my class and then go check on his class so it's a lot of running back and forth,” Barbee said. “I’m actually a co-teacher for Coach Wingate’s classes because the long term sub can’t technically enter grades so I have to work with him closely to try and get grades in.”

     It may be stressful, but Barbee has no problem doing it for Lovett.

     “When you’re doing it for Lovett,…you just kind of step up and do what it takes to try and get things done the best it can be done,” Barbee said.

     Although the health and PE department has had a less than normal year, everyone has come together and made the most of the circumstances.

     “I consider myself very lucky to have these people,” Lovett said. “I’ve worked at other places that you’re kind of like a number and I’m sure students can feel that way also but Rose High took me in and they treated me well and had my back.”

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