Deborah Esposito, teacher of Cosmetology at the Milliken Technical Center, has a picture of her father hanging in her classroom, always there to remind her of where her passion for hairdressing started. “I worked 15 years in my dad’s salon,” Deborah said. “I learned everything from my dad. He would come to my class and do demonstrations. He would come cut hair, do blowouts. We loved having him around.”
Deborah’s father was the late Danny Esposito. He was the owner of a salon, and Adult Education teacher at ESBOCES. “Everyone knew Danny,” Deborah said. “And everyone knew me, through him.”
Deborah knew she wanted to follow the same path as her father, learning to cut hair and then teach it to others. As a student at Patchogue-Medford High School, she enrolled in the ESBOCES Cosmetology Program at BTC. Deborah worked as a shampoo girl in her father’s salon while she was in school. Every day she’d excitedly tell him about the lessons she learned that day.
When she graduated from high school with her cosmetology license, Deborah started working with her father, where she gained confidence and creativity behind the salon chair.
When it came time to make the next step in her career, things started moving very fast for Deborah. “My mom came with me when I went to visit NYIT,” she said. “They told me a class was starting the next day. But, I wasn’t ready. I told them I had to think about it. My mom said, we’re here now, you’re filling out the forms, you’re going.”
While she was at NYIT, Deborah got a new perspective of college. She was attending night classes four nights a week while her mother watched her two young children. The experience allowed her not only to get an education, but valuable life experience that she shares with her students.
“I believe in explaining and bringing my life stories into my teaching,” Deborah said. “I tell them funny things, mistakes, and how to learn from them.”
Deborah brings life into the classroom, where students feel open to be themselves, connect with their teacher, and make mistakes. Students have met in her classroom, and went on to get married. She mentors students who go on to start their own businesses, or compete in SkillsUSA competitions.
The comfortable atmosphere allows Deborah to have a strong relationship with her students, who she teaches for two years. “I have a great rapport with my students,” Deborah said. “It’s a really nice feeling, we feel comfortable having conversations in class – it’s not just about the lessons.”
The warm environment in the classroom is because, as a teacher, Deborah works to make cosmetology the way she’s always known it to be, a family affair.