At her last graduation before retirement, Martha Kello joins some of her students for a photo. From left: Kimberly Jackson, Capria Jones, Michelle Van Ness, Kello, Crystal Bellamy and Cynthia Demiel.
Martha Kello, associate professor of Early Childhood Development and Reading, is retiring after 25 years of teaching at Paul D. Camp Community College.
“Martha has been an inspiration to her students and a fine role model for our faculty as well,” said Dr. Alan Harris, interim vice president of instruction and student development. “She got the early childhood development program up and running at PDCCC. She will be greatly missed.”
Several of Kello’s kin were also teachers, but they weren’t her only inspiration for entering the field. As a matter of fact, a negative situation led Kello to not lead by one teacher’s example— a teacher who made a rude personal comment to her when she was only in the fourth grade.
“In the short time I had her as a teacher, she did great damage to my self-esteem and completely destroyed my trust in teachers,” said Kello. “When it came time to select a major later in life, I decided to go into Early Childhood Education because I wanted to be the teacher that got children off to a good start.”
And now, her students are her inspiration as they reap rewards of self-confidence and academic accomplishments and Kello benefits from knowing she played a part in those outcomes.
“That is the most rewarding part — to see students who think they cannot succeed realize that they can,” she said. “At graduation, I will see children of former developmental English students who are not enrolled in developmental classes. Because of the increased level of the parents’ education, their children were better prepared for college than they were. It is truly making a difference, and that is what PDCCC does.”
A native of Southampton County, Kello earned an MA degree from Virginia Tech in 1978, an MS degree from Radford University in 1981 and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from Virginia Tech in 1982. She spent about five years as assistant professor at Concord University in Athens, W.Va., teaching reading methods courses.
“Like Dorothy in the land of Oz, I decided there was no place like home, so I became an assistant professor of developmental studies at PDCCC in 1988,” said Kello.
Although Kello has been extremely active in the community and at the college, including spearheading other organizations such as the Franklin-Southampton Reading Council shortly after moving back to the area, she takes the most pride in her involvement with Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater. Initially, she was asked by former PDCCC President Dr. Douglas Boyce to attend a focus group meeting for him on early childhood.
“This was a very forward thinking group led by former Franklin Mayor Jim Councill,” she explained. “The group was concerned about the lack of workforce, which affected attempts to bring in new business and industry to the area. It was decided that needed changes should start with children prior to entering school.”
It would be roughly 18 months later that the SBWT evolved from these discussions.
Kello worked closely with Barbara Mease, executive director of The Children’s Center, on this project and developed a close partnership with her.
“Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater is now a model organization across the state for the Smart Beginnings movement,” said Kello. “Barbara is a dear friend and role model for me and many, and I am happy to say that I have enjoyed working with them in many capacities, including four years on the board of directors.”
During her retirement, Kello plans to spend more time “enjoying life” with her family, and volunteering more time with the Southampton County Historical Society and at her church, Sebrell United Methodist. She will work on penning a couple of books — one on the history of the Kello family in Southampton County. In addition, she intends to do some reading, painting and needlework.
“I may even catch up on some rest if I have time,” she said. Her official retirement date is July 1, 2013.