After 35 years, Diane Covell has become something of an institution in the Woodbridge School District - one who won't be easily replaced. The fashion and design teacher who has a devoted following among her students at Colonia High School is planning her retirement.
Covell is one of those teachers who will be tough to replace, her students say: she just finished coordinating Project Runway, another of the she's overseen at CHS. This one, though, will be her last.
For Covell, her enthusiasm for fashion began at a young age. She attended St. John Vianney grammar school, where uniforms were required, but she never stopped dreaming of pairing this with the white go-go boots that were in such high fashion during the 1960s.
Later, during her high school years, Covell’s mother taught her how to sew and construct clothes. “I always had a passion for building and creating things through art,” said Covell, “so learning how to sew was another avenue for me to be artistic.” Making her own also clothes helped her family save money.
After high school, Covell attended Middlesex Community College, and had the desire to transfer to one of the fashion and design schools in New York City. Her father discouraged her, however, telling her she wasn’t “streetwise.” She instead settled on finishing up school at Montclair State University with an emphasis in fashion and design.
After graduation, Covell taught at Woodbridge Junior High and later at Fords Middle School. During her tenure at both schools she became infamous for the fashion shows she would organize, sometimes with as many as 50 models. Both guys and girls participated, Covell pointed out.
“The girls made their dresses for the 8th grade dance,” said Covell, “and the guys made vests, t-shirts and shorts. It was an event the students and I looked forward to every year.”
Eight years ago, Covell transitioned to Colonia High School, a change that proved to be a good fit for her. Having older students in her classrooms meant that she was able to teach advanced sewing techniques, and the construction of designer clothing. The transition has been beneficial for her students as well. Six of them have gone on to the Fashion Institute of Technology, and several others have attended the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising, both in New York City.
Over the years Covell has taken note of the shift in interest in fashion design classes. Sewing, once taught as a practical skill every girl should know, is now considered more of an art, and one that’s practiced by those who have an interest in pursuing fashion and design as a career. This equates to having more students in her classroom who have a genuine interest in learning the craft.
So what’s next for Covell? With a ton of options, a quiet retirement isn't on the list. At the present moment, she’s considering either teaching at the college level or opening up her own small design school at home. She’s also mulling over starting her own fashion design and construction business.
In addition to teaching, Covell is married to Edward and has two children. Her oldest son Edward Jr. is 29 and works in network operations, while her daughter Erin, 25, is a vascular specialist.