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Alumna Kathleen Costello Begins Lifetime Journey at MCCC


West Windsor, N.J. - Thriving in her second career as special education teacher at West Windsor High School North, Kathleen Costello '78 (A.A.S., Allied Health), co-teaches general education science in a mainstream classroom and also serves as a science resource room specialist.

"Working with teenagers is invigorating," Costello said. "I have especially developed a passion for teaching struggling learners. Many adolescents face all kinds of challenges. Today, many receive very little 'face time' with their parents at home. I want to help bridge the gap by being as supportive to their needs as possible."

A people person by nature, Costello draws immense fulfillment from assessing and meeting the needs of others. Inspired by two dental assistants from childhood visits to her dentist's office, her initial professional goal was to become a dental hygienist. "I admired those two ladies' caring manner; they really impressed me. I still remember their names, Mary and Dot," Costello said.

Seeking an affordable education, Costello enrolled at MCCC in 1976 upon graduating from Steinert High School. She pursued the Allied Health concentration and worked part-time in a dental multi-specialty practice firm in Lawrenceville.

Kathleen Costello '78

Costello credits Mercer with laying the foundation for her dentistry career. "Mercer's Dental Assistant program was extremely comprehensive. Headed by faculty member Sandra Thiel, it thoroughly prepared me to later enter the rigorous dental hygiene program at Forsyth's School for Dental Hygienist's in Boston." Forsyth was affiliated at the time with Northeastern University and after she earned a second associate degree in Science at Northeastern University in 1981, Costello went on to earn a bachelor's degree in Health Science in 1982.

Launching her career in Boston, she served as a dental hygienist for Boston University's School of Dental Medicine for more than 10 years. She gained further insight into the healthcare industry while working a two-year stint as a representative for a pharmaceutical company.

Yet, Costello always yearned to broaden her professional horizons. Returning to New Jersey in 1999 in order to be closer to aging parents, at age 40, she enrolled at Rider University, where she took courses to obtain a Graduate Level Teacher Preparation Certificate. A few years later, she married and returned to Rider part time while teaching at Grover Middle School in West Windsor. This time she earned a master's degree in Special Education in 2009 at age 51.

"Teaching has been a natural fit for me," said Costello, who plans to return to school once again to become a school counselor.

The more her career evolves, the more she would not have it any other way. Every summer, she trades her "teacher tool box" for her "dental tool box," working as a dental hygienist for an agency, Dependable Dental Temporaries.

"It might sound cliché, but education does not have a timetable," Costello said. "We are all lifetime learners. It does not matter when the learning begins. What really matters is where it takes you. Hopefully, the journey will last a lifetime."

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