Teacher By Day, Equestrian By Night: Kathleen Stellakis


Kathleen Stellakis

Ms. Stellakis riding her horse over a log fence

HEMA VIKRAM '24, Business Editor

Being an athlete requires great levels of discipline, but athletes find that passion for their sport outweighs the rigorous demands. Kathleen Stellakis, a member of the Edison High community for twelve years and teacher of biology and ACES classes, exemplifies this through her unwavering dedication to horseback riding.

Stellakis’ love for horseback riding began when she was seven years old and attended a birthday party featuring a pony. Stellakis explains that horseback riding requires high levels of discipline and lots of effort. However, as a student, she found that it was commonplace for instructors to be overly critical, often becoming detrimental to students.

Ms. Stellakis on her horse (Kathleen Stellakis)

Currently, Stellakis trains others in group public sessions and individual private lessons at Watchung Stables. Her students range from nine year old beginners to adults in their sixties, with the majority of her students being active amateurs, usually high school age or young adults. Her students are generally very dedicated, especially those who opt into private lessons.

Stellakis emphasizes the demanding nature of horseback riding. While many of her students ride recreationally, competitive riding is not uncommon. In comparison to teaching biology, Stellakis notes that horseback riding is strict and must be taken seriously, while enjoyed. Despite the discipline required, riders generally have great motivation due to their passion for the sport. Horseback riding is very goal-oriented, which makes the sport personal for many riders.

No matter how stressful it is … it’s something that I’ll never give up.

— Ms. Kathleen Stellakis

In addition to passion for the sport, personal connections are formed between instructors and their students. The instructors are responsible for building their students up and encouraging them. Stellakis makes an effort to focus on constructivism rather than pure criticism. While maintaining the basic education for foundational aspects of the sport, she seeks to improve the interpersonal communication that she found to be lacking as a student.

The rigor of this sport is apparent in Stellakis’ time working for a professional showjumper, which she notes to be an invaluable experience. She was exposed to top professionals in the industry, living in apartments attached to show grounds for four months. She shares that her boss was an incredibly hard worker, and she herself spent sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, working in this environment. Although she did not compete in this rigorous environment, she gained experience riding and working in the stalls with esteemed horses coming from popular bloodlines.

Ms. Stellakis alongside her horse, Curley (Kathleen Stellakis)

Animals have always played a central role in Stellakis’ life. Growing up, she had multiple pets, and she even considered the veterinary field as a profession. She has worked in a veterinary clinic, taught as a veterinary tech, and her father owns a pet store. Stellakis has her own horse, Curley, which she has had since she was sixteen years old.

Ultimately, horseback riding holds a special place in Stellakis’ heart.

“No matter how stressful it is … it’s something that I’ll never give up,” she remarks. She reiterates that riding is all about communication and notes that she makes sure to teach her riders to be a good partner to their horse. She teaches her students to be safe and makes sure that the horses are taken care of simultaneously.