“There are a lot of good people here; it’s more of a family atmosphere,” Barry Kostibos said, as he reflected upon his 30-year teaching career at Watchung Hills Regional High School, which comes to an end this year.
Kostibos, a Villanova University graduate, came to Watchung Hills in 1983 as a member of the Social Studies Department and taught such courses as American History, Introduction to Psychology, Human Relationships and a myriad of Advanced Placement and College Prep courses in history and related social studies areas.
Along the way, he himself was taking courses which would lead to two master’s degrees, one in methods of teaching (Seton Hall University), and one in administration (Rutgers University).
The name Kostibos has become a familiar one in the area for his coaching accomplishments, as well. He served as Watchung Hills’ assistant football coach from 1983-1987, and as head football coach from 1987 to 2002. Coincidentally, Watchung Hills’ new principal, George Alexis, also served as Hills’ assistant football coach from 1995-2000, part of which was under Kostibos’ leadership.
“I was fortunate to have had Barry as a mentor. It was obvious that he was able to influence kids on the field as well as in the classroom," Alexis said.
That classroom, obviously, has changed vastly in the three decades during which Kostibos has taught.
“Clearly, we have had to integrate technology into the classroom—into the curriculum, into classroom lessons. Because of the easy availability of knowledge and information through technology, students may have become more aware. We are bringing a whole new skill set into the classroom," Kostibos said.
However, in the process, Kostibos cautions, students may have lost some of the more traditional skills: penmanship, writing skills, the ability to access information through more conventional means.
“Life is not a series of twitters and e-mails,” he said, “and many students are hearing, but are not listening.”
If there is such a thing as a “teaching gene,” the Kostibos family has it. Son Kevin follows in his dad’s footsteps and is a social studies teacher in Summit and football coach at the high school. Daughter Jessie teaches mentally challenged and autistic adults in Chatham’s PRIDE program. Wife Diane has been a kindergarten teacher for over 30 years and presently serves in Summit’s Jefferson School.
As for Kostibos, he is not retiring from so much as retiring to. He will continue to be head football coach, serve as assistant baseball coach, run the winter weight room, as well as serve as a substitute teacher — all at Livingston High School. He’ll continue his 35-year stint as a varsity basketball official.