LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Lydia Lovell

Position: Spanish Teacher
School: St. Mary's School
School District: Diocese of Lexington Kentucky
City, State: Paris, KY

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Music that Describes Lydia

Lydia Lovell was nominated by her family members, Jonathan and Carrie Lovell.

For the first 27 years of her teaching career, Senora Lovell taught Spanish at Bourbon County High School (BCHS) in Paris, Kentucky. The California transplant made a difference in the lives of her small-town students, not only by teaching them how to speak Spanish, but by teaching them to embrace and appreciate Spanish culture. Her teaching style encouraged students to appreciate diversity and fostered enthusiasm for celebrating diversity in a rural homogenous Kentucky town. Her curriculum included learning songs, games, dances, culinary techniques/recipes, traditions, and celebrations that were important to Latin and Hispanic families worldwide. She taught advanced AP Spanish and sponsored the National Spanish Honor Society. Her students won numerous awards in local, regional, and state competitions, illustrating her leadership qualities and professional expertise. She created an atmosphere combining formal education with a big splash of fun and a strong sense of Familia that endeared her to her high school students. Senora Lovell didn't just help students perfect their accents; she nurtured them and helped shape the adults they would become. She inspired many of her students to study abroad in Spanish-speaking countries and become Spanish teachers, and she also inspired an entire community. 

Although Senora Lovell retired from the high school setting in 2012, she continued to help organize Dia de los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo community celebrations, where she is recognized, appreciated, and, most importantly, hugged by multiple generations of former students. She also continued her love of teaching by serving as an instructor for adult ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. This role allowed her to continue to be an educator in a non-traditional setting where she helped adults with self-improvement and life-long learning. Her work helped many ESL students get better jobs to provide for their families. She greeted immigrants with open arms, warm smiles, and the patience needed to help them succeed. 

Seven years ago, Senora Lovell was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was strong, and after months of treatment, she "beat" cancer. Just as she was celebrating five years of being cancer-free, Senora Lovell received a second cancer diagnosis. This time she had to endure chemotherapy at the height of the COVID pandemic. Her husband was not allowed to enter the hospital with her. She was masked and alone. The hospital restricted visits from friends and family due to a weakened immune system, fear of COVID exposure, and quarantine protocol. Nevertheless, she battled through this incredibly difficult situation, and once again, she defeated cancer. Knowing that every day is a precious gift, she wanted to return to what she loved; teaching children to speak Spanish. 

Senora Lovell has taught Spanish to elementary students at St. Mary's School for the past three years. St. Mary's is a small Catholic school with limited resources in Paris, Kentucky. She brought with her to St. Mary's the same passion for teaching that she had exuded in the high school classroom for many years. This time around, Senora Lovell was teaching the children and even grandchildren of her former students. While her family worried about her being back in a school setting after all she had been through, she was determined to continue to change the lives of those around her even though cancer had been a life changer for her. Not even cancer could keep her out of the classroom!                   
In February of 2022, Senora Lovell received her third cancer diagnosis. This time her doctors explained that treatment and surgery are not options. Even in the face of this news, at 73 years old, she prioritized her work at St. Mary's as an educator, said goodbye to her students, and tied up all loose ends before taking medical leave this spring. She is the perfect example of a LifeChanger and a warrior. She has a long history and outstanding record in Spanish education that has touched the lives of children, teens, and adults in many positive ways. She profoundly impacted every student she taught from their first "hola" to their last "hasta luego." Former students come back to Paris to visit her and tell her stories of how her work and passion changed their lives. Senora Lovell has changed a community as she brought together a beautiful mix of people and cultures over the years. She is taking it easy and getting plenty of rest this summer but is not yet ready to give up the fight or say a final "adios." She is admired and loved by multiple generations of students and will leave a legacy worthy of the honor of being a LifeChanger.

Comments (1)

Sarah Sturgeon Posted over a year ago

Core memories. Señora Lovell standing on chairs and tables, banging piñatas, shouting at the top of her lungs for the Colonels. She taught us to believe in ourselves. To be loyal. To be scared enough to WANT to make her proud. Her smile went all the way up to her eyes. I am the strong, independent woman I am today because she told me I didn’t need a silly boy to define me. I am the lifelong learner I am today because she taught me how to turn everything into a song and dance. I am the educator I am today because when everything else was hard, she had made Spanish easy. Working on Bourbon County’s first Dia de Los Muertos event with her was the highlight of my career. My teacher. My idol. My friend. A true, life changer.