Beloved Educator Leaves His Mark
The Towne Lake community lost one of its own recently, but his legacy lives on across Cherokee County and the world.
Dr. Rouel C. Belleza, a lifelong educator and architect of the Cherokee County School District’s (CCSD) Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) initiative, passed away Nov. 30, 2019, after a two-year battle with gastric cancer.
When Rouel, who joined CCSD as a counselor, began his role as the district’s first supervisor of student services, his responsibilities included overseeing counselors, nurses and social workers. He saw the opportunity to help all students and educators and championed the need for SEL.
As a result of the initiative, the school district has improved identifying and supporting students struggling with mental and emotional health, has trained staff district-wide to aid this effort, and has educated parents to understand their role.
As Rouel once said: “Students, parents, society and learning have all changed dramatically in the past 10 years. Perspectives, priorities, social practices and emotional fortitude have all been impacted by the technological and cultural shifts that have influenced today’s students. Today, schools are not only charged with the important practices of academics, but in many cases, there is a growing reliance on schools to further address the needs and development of the ‘whole student.’”
The project has expanded to encompass wellness support for educators and the development of lessons to teach children SEL fundamentals, such as how to develop resiliency.
Countless lives will be positively impacted by Rouel’s SEL work, as it will benefit not just today’s students, but also future generations.
“Rouel was a true advocate for students and teachers, and carried the flag for our earliest work in SEL,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower said. “His passion, wit and knowledgeable approach to serving students holistically will be greatly missed by all.”
Prior to his SEL work, Rouel positively impacted students as the first graduation coach at Creekview High, counselor at Etowah High, assistant principal at Mill Creek Middle, and Office of Curriculum & Instruction administrator overseeing projects, including blended learning.
Rouel’s legacy extends further as a result of his decades-long tenure with Summer Discovery, recruiting and educating students from around the world and directing its Cambridge, England,summer program. He also made an impact as a volunteer YMCA soccer coach.
He not only brightened the lives of students and colleagues, Rouel also, with Daniella (Ellie), his wife of 20 years, raised two sons: Mason, an Etowah senior headed to Georgia Institute of Technology, and Logan, a sophomore and Etowah Eagles Marching Band member.
By Barbara P. Jacoby, chief communications officer for the Cherokee County School District, and a CCSD parent with four children.