For Carolyn McKillop, teaching cosmetology at Ward Technical Center brings together two of her passions – cosmetology and teaching. Carolyn figured out at a young age that she was destined for a career in hair, skin, nails, and makeup. She attended the two-year Cosmetology Program through Western Suffolk BOCES as a high school student, and because she wanted to further her education, she became certified in esthetics and makeup through a program at Christine Valmay immediately after graduation. She opened her own skincare business at 19 and soon developed a loyal clientele. She did this part time while also working as a hair stylist at another salon several days a week. Looking to further her education even more, Carolyn returned to Western Suffolk BOCES to earn a certification in nail technology, which provided her with a well-rounded business acumen in hair, skin, nails, and makeup.
Her first introduction to teaching came when she secured a position as an educator for Paul Mitchell Systems where she taught various aspects of hair styling in salons and at large trade shows. At one point, she crossed paths with a former BOCES teacher who watched her in action and planted the seed by asking her if she ever thought about teaching in the CTE classroom. “I loved teaching and inspiring people,” said Carolyn. “Lots of people have that can’t-do attitude. One of my strengths is changing their mindset.” Carolyn was sold on the idea and attended New York Institute of Technology’s Occupational Education Program to become a certified teacher of Career and Technical Education.
After school it wasn’t long before she had a position as a part-time teacher’s assistant at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, which eventually became a full-time position. She has been there for 21 years. “For me, this is a career and not a job,” she explained. “I wanted an environment that inspired me. I wanted to grow as a professional. I love the support I get here. I love the way technology has helped me recreate lessons.” As a teacher, Carolyn encourages all her students to consider the professional. “I explain all the career paths,” she said. “Every year I have at least one or two students who are interested in one day becoming a CTE teacher. I love what I do. I live it and walk it and breathe it and I’m sure that resonates with my students.”