By: Veronica Burnison
Throughout history, whether it be that of America or another country, men and women have been honored for their accomplishments, inventions, dreams, and sacrifices. In recent years, awards are given annually for artistic and literary achievements, and the definition of success is often accompanied by ribbons, certificates, trophies, and dollar signs.
But there comes a point when one must ask oneself: What is true success? Is it what a person gains from his or her community or what they give back to it? Is success about rising above ones fellow man or residing with him through the storms?
With so many versionsof success in the world, its surprising how very few people look to their local educators – people they entrust with the education of their children.
On December 19th, during a JCHS Volleyball Tournament Fundraiser for the local Cancer Support Group, High School teacher and coach Russell Love was presented with two footballs signed by students and faculty. These footballs, given to Love on the eve of his retirement, are not just cherished trophies of a job well-done; they represent nearly four decades of Loves dedication, passionate service to the students and community, and the cherished memories attained by all who have come into contact with him, whether as a student, fellow teacher, parent, or member of the community.
Originally from Carter County, Russell Love has been teaching up on the hill for thirty-nine years. Beginning in 1975 with a phone call from Harold Arnold (the athletic director at the time), Loves coaching and teaching career leapt into action as he took on the responsibility of coaching Johnson Countys first Middle School football team as well as the High School football team.
From 1976 through 1996, Love immersed himself completely into the world of maroon-and-white, training young athletes, encouraging them through their struggles and victories, and watching them grow into talented young men. Then, after twenty years coaching on the field, Love accepted a full-time teaching position at the High School where he spent the next eighteen years leading thousands of teens in a medley of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and running laps around the gym in Physical Education and Wellness classes.
In a recent interview as a newly retired teacher, Love spoke fondly of his thirty-nine year coaching/teaching career, praising both the students and faculty hed been blessed with the opportunity to work with. As Love expressed his enthusiasm for working with the students, he also focused a great deal on the importance and influence of not just the teachers but of the school staff, parents, and community on a young persons education. He stressed how significant a persons choices are, since ones words or actions possess the power to either build or destroy another person:
Anybody can tear things down, Love said, but you have to work and strive to build. And building doesnt come easy. It takes effort and it takes time. And one person doesnt build; it takes a whole crew. And the whole crew is your whole community. And the product – what you build – is a good child.
Over his teaching years, Love worked diligently to encourage his students. He refused to see them by their grade level or Grade Point Average, instead he focused on who they were as people and who they might one day become.
You take them from where they are and you take them forward, Love commented, regarding the role teachers have with their students. Some may make leaps and bounds of progress; some may move and migrate very slowly. But the thing about it is they know that you care about them because youre working with them.
After listening to Love speak about his thirty-nine years in the teaching profession, his love and devotion to the young people was evident. He never saw teaching as simply a job or a way to earn a living; he saw it as a calling where every moment he spent with the students was an opportunity to remind them that they are valuable and full of great potential. Although hes now retired, Love hopes to continue working with students in the future. He stated, The opportunity to work with young people is something you dont retire from.
Looking back, remembering the triumphs and stumbles, the long hours of football practices and the even longer hours spent laundering the teams grass-stained jerseys, Love wanted to express his appreciation for his wife, Kathie, who supported him through the years and stood right there beside him during those long hours, washing those muddied uniforms.
Near the end of the interview, Love recalled a quote by Grantland Rice located on the James Plummer plaque in the commons area of the High School:
For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He writes not if you won or lost, but how you played the game. Love added, Hopefully, I played well.