West Windsor, N.J. – Jim Sabol ’71 (A.S., Biology) has led a busy, satisfying life immersed in the sciences. He is one of just 33 certified wildlife biologists in the state of New Jersey, has been a science teacher for close to 20 years, and has served as a tutor, job coach and more. Sabol says his journey began at Mercer County Community College (MCCC). Sabol had ties to Mercer growing up so it was natural for him to head to MCCC straight from high school in 1968. “Mercer was well respected in my family. My Uncle Ed Sabol attended Trenton Junior College before it became MCCC and then earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University. He even served as an assistant to the dean at MCCC,” Sabol said, adding that his uncle also occasionally coached men’s basketball during the Coach Howie Landa years. “Mercer was already a part of our family before I enrolled.” Sabol earned his A.S. in Biology in 1971. He recalls Professor of English Ted Otten, who retired in 2013, as one of his most influential instructors. “Even though I majored in biology, Mr. Otten helped me tremendously in developing effective communication skills.” He also recalls two biology instructors, Mr. and Mrs. Donahoe, who made significant contributions to his education.
Sabol transferred to Richard Stockton State College (now Stockton University), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences. Sabol says he had no trouble transferring his credits. “Every college and university I applied to accepted me as a junior or second semester sophomore, and took most if not all of my credits."
Following college, Sabol worked in wildlife biology and damage management for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife, collecting raw biological data for use in various state research projects. He pursued his certification as a wildlife biologist from the Wildlife Society (Bethesda, Md.), the only certifying body for wildlife biologists in the country.
“Even during this process, my Mercer education was helpful,” he notes. “They accepted all of my MCCC credits to satisfy the educational component for certification.” He also earned state certification as an Animal Control Officer with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.
In the early 2000s, Sabol decided it was time for a change. He applied for a substitute teacher certificate at the Mercer County Department of Education, where he learned about New Jersey’s Alternate Route to Teacher Certification program. (The program is a fast route to teaching for those who already have their bachelor’s degrees in a subject concentration.) And, he was told that science teachers were in particular demand.
“The more I thought about it, the more my interest grew,” Sabol recalls. He decided to enter the rigorous process, which required passing three different PRAXIS II tests and enrolling in an intense year of classes at The College of New Jersey – while teaching concurrently in a school district.
“It was pretty rough, but here again, I point to the MCCC biology courses I took during my freshman and sophomore years that got me through. The NJ Department of Education accepted every one of my MCCC biology and science credits,” he observes.
“Teaching has been extremely challenging and at the same time rewarding commensurate with those challenges,” he said. As part of Sabol’s early immersion in teaching, he returned to MCCC to serve as an education specialist at the Beverly Richardson Learning Center at the James Kerney Campus, overseeing the professional tutoring staff and computer lab, facilitating workshops, assisting with financial aid, and working with a diverse student body. Since then, he has taught general science, biology, chemistry and math, mostly at the middle and high school levels, and has worked with mainstream as well as special needs students. Currently he is teaching biological science as a home instructor for the Hamilton School District. He previously taught at McCorristin Catholic High School (now Trenton Catholic Academy), Sherman Avenue Middle School Academy in Trenton, the Life Center Academy in Columbus, and the Alternative High School located at Steinert High. He is also certified to teach Social Studies. Sabol has used his life experience as a career advisor to young people in Burlington County’s Youth Opportunity Program and has been a volunteer with Angels Wings.
Sabol stays connected to his original work as a volunteer with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. He and his wife, Cathy, assist on conservation projects with the New Jersey Wildlife Conservation Corps, the state's largest natural resource management volunteer group. (More about the organization here.)
He also gives back through his own website. “I offer free help on questions related to conservation, especially to students studying biology and wildlife,” he says, inviting anyone with conservation and wildlife questions to visit his website at www.marshrunwildlife.net. Born in Trenton, Sabol attended high school at St. Anthony's in Trenton (now Trenton Catholic Academy). He currently resides in Bordentown. Sabol emphasizes that a Mercer education can take you far. “Students should believe that their endeavors at MCCC are greatly respected outside of our region. I know of many former students who have gone on to successful careers because they began their college education at Mercer.”