In her 23 years as a teacher at Highland Elementary School in Downers Grove, Shor Costello has had the pleasure of teaching students – and some of their parents.
Whether the parents once were students, they all seem to agree that Costello goes the extra mile to get to know her students.
Amy Menias, a parent of one of Costello’s current fourth graders, nominated Costello as a standout teacher at Highland. Her son, Gabriel Walley, always comes home from school with a smile on his face, she said, and has learned and grown so much in Costello’s classroom.
“She’s just phenomenal, and my son thrives through her teaching,” Menias said. “I never have to worry when I drop Gabriel off because I’m confident she loves my child like I love him and will take care of him as if he’s her own child.”
Gabriel was struggling to keep up with his reading response journal, Menias said. She said Costello worked with him and held him accountable, leading Gabriel to push himself to do better because he wanted to make his teacher proud.
Costello’s classroom joke is that she’s the “meanest teacher in the world,” she said, but the students and parents know that is far from the truth. Costello explains to her students every year that there is a time for play and silliness, but there also is a time to take care of business and be serious.
“The thing about teaching fourth grade is that you’re at a stage where you’re teaching them character and integrity – to do the right thing even when no one is in the room,” Costello said. “It’s amazing to see how little they seem when they come in and how old and mature they are going out.”
Those silly life lessons Costello teaches stick with her students far beyond their fourth grade classroom. Some have approached her later in life to remind her of the effect she’s had on them, she said. Her favorite thing is when a former student updates her on their life, she said.
Costello originally wanted to be a dance instructor, she said, but always knew she loved children. In college, she ventured out to take an elementary education class during her undergraduate years at Northern Illinois University, and from there, it’s history, she said.
“Everybody remembers their teachers, and I want them to carry with them always that I care about them and they’ll always be a part of me,” Costello said. “Once a Costello kid, always a Costello kid.”