It’s been a bittersweet time for the Roach family.

Eugene Roach, a beloved physical education teacher and coach at Ecole St. Joseph, was inducted into the NWT’s Education Hall of Fame, along with seven other educators from across the territory, earlier this month.

The honour was bestowed after Roach suffered a debilitating stroke last month. That health challenge came after being diagnosed in 2018 with stage four metastasized lung cancer. Although his wife Cynthia says he’s doing well at home, the stroke damaged his ability to communicate.

A release from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) announcing each of the winners states that Roach was nominated by those close to him because his “energy and quiet leadership have created opportunities for many students to participate in sports and other activities. He’s made a positive impact on the thousands of students who have been coached or taught by him over nearly two decades in the NWT.”

Roach taught in New Brunswick and Yukon before starting at Ecole St. Joseph in 2004. In addition to teaching phys ed, he was a prolific coach, bringing archery teams to the North American Indigenous Games in 2017 and the Canada Winter Games in 2019.

Roach is also an avid musician, having written and sung songs inspired by his Acadian heritage in both English and French.

Maggie Carson, a student of Roach’s at St. Joseph for five years, has a unique bond with her former teacher. Around the same time Roach was diagnosed with cancer, Carson was finishing her own treatment for a brain tumour.

“So yeah, I definitely feel extremely connected to him,” she says.

Carson even visited Roach when he was undergoing treatment in B.C.

“It was it was definitely bittersweet, and it brought up how I felt during my treatment, so I understood what he was going through and stuff like that. It was really nice to see him feeling good and being in a good mood.

“He is my biggest support in life, and his will to live is my biggest inspiration.”

Cynthia Roach says it is “very humbling” to see her husband inducted into the NWT Educators Hall of Fame for the work he has done with his students and athletes over the span of his career.

“The love he had for sports was energizing and very much a part of his everyday life. Sports to this day remain his passion and he continues to follow some of his past students and their careers,” she says.

When she told her husband of his award, he responded that the “kids did all the work, I was just there to help. It should be them receiving the award.”

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