Dowell shows school the meaning of positivity


Dowell speaks with her students about the “Health Triangle.” This is one of the first topics she discusses with her seniors during health class, as it is vital to a person’s well being.

by Luke Brangaccio, Business and Advertising Manager

If you can’t find her motivating students in gym class, you’ll find her doing the same in the health classroom next door. The only thing you won’t find teacher Kelly Dowell doing is frowning.

Since beginning her tenure at the high school in 2003, Dowell has established herself as a cheerful and fun-loving gym and health teacher. Day after day, her enthusiastic demeanor remains, despite the obligatory groans as gym students begin their daily warm-ups. On top of her responsibilities during school hours, Dowell also coaches the girls varsity softball team.

Despite Dowell’s glowing personality, she has faced some serious medical hardships in life. During the summer of 2009, she was informed that a growth on her neck discovered at a routine checkup turned out to be cancerous thyroid nodules. After the initial checkup, Dowell met with endocrinologist Dr. Michael Magnotti of the Hackensack University Medical Center to assess the nodules, and an ultrasound eventually revealed the cancer.

“It was definitely unreal, because I went just for a physical and then all this came from it, so that was a lot to take in,” Dowell said.

Even when facing such a daunting issue, however, Dowell maintained the same level of positivity and courage that she carries on a daily basis.

“Sometimes I might complain, but I’m not going to be like ‘woe is me, woe is me,’ and that’s just who I am, so that helped,” she said.

She kept a smile while explaining her fight against cancer and paused to reply to the multiple shouts of “Hey Ms. Dowell!”’ from students passing through the media center.

After the endocrinologist performed his biopsy, she eventually chose Dr. Masayuki Inouye of Bergen Ear, Nose & Throat to remove the cancerous nodules. She said this was when the nerves set in, but Dowell praised the skill and professional air of both Magnotti and Inouye. She said the routine manner at which the doctors practiced their craft helped her feel at ease.

After a two week hiatus from work, Dowell returned the same way she left, with a smile on her face. According to Jim Kurz, physical education teacher and coach of the varsity football team, there were no recognizable changes in Dowell’s personality following the surgery.

“She didn’t want any attention, but we still tried to support her as much as we can,” Kurz said. “That’s why she’s such a great role model, to not only the students here but the faculty as well.”

Directly following her return, Dowell integrated her story into health class, believing there was a lesson to be learned about early recognition and the importance of routine visits to the doctor.

“We can’t always diagnose ourselves, so I’ve applied it every year, and I felt awareness is important, so the more you can let people know about things, hopefully they can help,” Dowell said.

These days, the only sign of Dowell’s cancer that is still present in her life is the pill she’s required to take daily to perform the functions of a thyroid.

Senior Christine Nappi couldn’t identify any ways that Dowell let her cancer experience affect her current life. As a member of the softball team, Nappi has observed Dowell in two very different scenarios; in school and on the field. She notices that the positivity Dowell is known for stays present on the softball diamond.

“She’s really good at motivating us, and she’s always really positive. I actually didn’t know that she did [have cancer], so I wouldn’t say she shows it at all.” Nappi said

At the beginning of most health classes, Dowell will show the class a couple of “life hacks” off of the internet: these could be things like making coffee ice cubes, or even sandwich crafting techniques to get the most even distribution of meat on the bread. Yet the most important life hack she’s taught her students is the simple act of staying positive.