Janet Costello is a Baptist Chaplain and counsellor at Kilvington Grammar School where she’s worked for the past six years guiding students through their education and their challenges.
“I have great admiration for the human spirit”
– Janet Costello
WHERE DID YOU ATTEND SCHOOL?
In my primary years, I went to Blackburn South State School and secondary years were at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School because I was a Baptist girl.
HOW DID YOU COME TO WORK AT KILVINGTON GRAMMAR SCHOOL?
I have known Kilvington’s Principal, Jon Charlton, since our days at Blackburn Baptist Church when we were teenagers. When Jon took over as Principal I was still studying Theology at the Whitley Baptist Theological College where he had also studied. He suggested I come to Kilvington as Chaplain/Counsellor as he knew I was considering ordination studies to be a Baptist Minister and it made sense (apart from being God’s will) that I be a Chaplain in a Baptist school. I love being a school counsellor and Kilvington is renowned for its pastoral care program and respectful and supportive community.
WHO WAS YOUR INSPIRATION AT SCHOOL?
I had a number of people who inspired me. My grade 6 teacher, Miss McCann, taught my brothers and me and focused on spelling, grammar and organisation skills to prepare us for secondary school. She also happened to be part of Blackburn Baptist Church where we spent our weekends. It takes a village to raise a child and having a grade 6 teacher who was part of our church meant that we knew that school, home and church were all interrelated.
In Year 12 Commercial and Legal Studies, the teacher was a bit light on in terms of the law. The student teacher at the time – who just happened to be my brother Tim – had done a law degree and got me, and other students, through Year 12.
When Tim’s supervisor came out to assess him, he told me to answer the questions he asked if no one else did. His supervisor asked Tim if he had noticed that only one student had answered most of the questions. We were very shy girls and easily intimidated by a 23-year-old Law graduate.
Both my parents were outstanding. Tim got me through legal studies, my father got me through Australian History and Biblical studies (he taught biblical Greek at a bible college at night) and my mother helped with English and Biology. My mother at 86 still quizzes and sets questions for us today.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP IN THE COSTELLO HOUSEHOLD?
My parents were very hospitable so we often had people over. It was a lively, noisy and energetic household. As the youngest child with a dad who taught History and Politics, a mum who was an educational psychologist and two older brothers (Tim – now CEO of World Vision and Peter – a former Federal politician) who loved to argue, I had to do a lot of listening (good training for counselling). We had animated discussions going on at the dinner table most nights, usually about subjects other people considered taboo i.e. religion and politics. Some of my friends were too scared to come over as the meal times were so intimidating with the boys arguing and everyone needing to have an opinion.
THE MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT BEING A SCHOOL COUNSELLOR?
School counselling can be very challenging at times. Sadly, young people do consider extreme actions like ending their lives. Sitting with a person and hearing their pain and suffering can be very hard but I have great admiration for the human spirit and the way that people can get their lives back together after difficult times.
FONDEST TEACHING MEMORY?
In my first year teaching I was teaching a student who was undergoing chemotherapy for leukaemia. She was part of a rowdy Year 9 class that I had at the end of the day. I remember feeling suddenly sick and nauseous and dismissed the class slightly early as I thought I was going to be ill. Bronwyn stayed behind, got me a bucket which she gave to me and said, ‘I know what it is like to feel like vomiting,’ and stayed with me while I did. I learned something that day about the importance of taking time to sit alongside someone even in difficult circumstances.
WHEN YOU’RE NOT AT SCHOOL, WHAT WILL WE FIND YOU DOING? (I.E. A HOBBY)
I like doing anything with people! Eating, socialising, entertaining and talking. I’ll even go to the gym with my daughter, go walking with friends, go to St Kilda Baptist Church on Sunday, and attend Baptist conferences and school counsellor conferences. The more the merrier! If I’m not with people I like to read!
DO YOU HAVE A FUNNY CLASSROOM STORY YOU CAN SHARE?
When accompanying a school group on a language trip to Japan, we included a visit to some hot springs. Prior to leaving, the Japanese teacher educated the group on the correct way to bathe at the springs. We were to wash and wear kimonos. It was considered very rude to wear bathers in the springs. I was the last to leave with a small group of students. When we got to the springs the water was not particularly hot and none of our group was there. Adding to the confusion was the arrival of a Japanese lady in her bathers! I sent my group of students to find our party. They came back later to inform me that I was in the hotel swimming pool in my kimono, which to my horror, was now see through!
WHAT ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?
Great question! I love reading and have piles of books by my bed. Over summer, I enjoyed reading Reckoning by Magda Szubanski who did Year 12 at the school up the road at about the same time as me. I finished The Narrow Road to the Deep North which I found very moving. It made me want to find out more about what my own father, who is still alive at 97, did in New Guinea during the war.
Currently, I am reading Emmeline Pankhurst’s My Own Story after seeing the movie Suffragettes and being again inspired by those courageous women; Bonhoeffer Abridged based on a Pastor in Germany in World War II who was executed for being part of an assassination attempt on Hitler, and a book called Celtic Spirituality in the Australian Landscape. I have also just read Oliver Sack’s essays on Gratitude as gratitude is our Kilvington character trait in Term 1.
WHAT DO THE STUDENTS TEACH YOU?
Students teach me to be resilient, to not take things too intensely and realise that ‘This too will pass’. I love the energy and life they exude. I love their honesty and openness to question and argue. I love their ability to embrace learning, change and most of all growth.
ABOUT KILVINGTON GRAMMAR SCHOOL
- Independent, Baptist, co-educational school
- Located in Ormond (near Brighton)
- Open to students from P to12
- Offers programs and initiatives which inspire and engage students
KILVINGTON GRAMMAR: THE EX FILES
- Class of 1975
- CV: Professor of Psychiatry
As Director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Professor Jayashri Kulkarni has been responsible for many new insights into women’s mental health including pioneering the use of estrogen as a treatment of schizophrenia. After graduating from Monash Medical School in 1981, Professor Kulkarni worked in emergency medicine before deciding to become a psychiatrist.
Passionate about women’s mental health, Jayashri has been invited to deliver keynote addresses at many international meetings and conferences and collaborates extensively with researchers nationally and throughout the world. She has been elected as the next President of the International Association for Women’s Mental Health, with her term in office commencing in March 2017 where she will report to the United Nations.
- Class of 1985
- CV: Barrister
Julianne Jaques completed her Bachelors of Economics and Laws at Monash University and is currently a practising Barrister with the Victorian Bar where she specialises in taxation law and revenue matters.
Prior to becoming a member of the Bar she had 10 years’ experience in private tax practice including Senior Taxation Adviser to the Federal Assistant Treasurer.
Julianne was named as a recommended junior counsel in Doyles Guide’s listing of Leading Tax Barristers in 2015, and has been appointed a member of the Tax Practitioners Board from January 2016.
She has a Doctor of Juridical Science from the University of Melbourne and is a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser.
- Class of 1989
- CV: Entrepreneur
Kylie Roberts completed a Bachelor of Arts (Public Relations) followed by a Post-Graduate Diploma (Business) at Melbourne Business School.
Over the past 10 years, Kylie has been a franchise owner of Endota spas and was the first Marketing Manager ever appointed by Endota corporate. In 2014, she co-founded Aleenta Barre, a fitness studio combining yoga, ballet and pilates in Adelaide’s CBD and has since opened five more studios (with another two planned this year).
Kylie has won multiple business awards including South Australian Franchisee of the Year three years in a row.
- Class of 2000
- CV: Strategy / Business Transformation Consultant
Sudha Ramkumar completed a Bachelor of Commerce and Business Systems at Monash University and went on to complete her MBA at INSEAD in France and Singapore.
She started her career in taxation and audit with Deloitte Touch Tohmatsu, and is currently a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group and a Melbourne-based Partner of Auctus Capital – a venture capital firm that supports entrepreneurs commercialise, execute and grow their ideas. She is also a qualified Chartered Accountant.
She is passionate about adding value to innovative organisations that have a compelling vision and definitive value proposition. As a management consultant, she loves helping clients address their key strategic challenges through structured problem solving and disruptive thinking.