Shalom Austin Staff and Volunteer Spotlight

Shalom Austin Staff and Volunteer Spotlight

Kathy Davis
Assistant Director, Early Childhood Program

What is your role, and what do you do at Shalom Austin?
I’m the Assistant Director of the Early Childhood Program as well as the Inclusion Specialist, so I basically keep my eyes, hands, and ears on the pulse of the ECP. I work with a host of everyday areas from departmental finances, enrichment programs, and compliance issues to overseeing UT interns, parent counseling, and student interactions. I both provide and coordinate professional development for our educators, take care of departmental on-boarding, and ensure everyone receives a wealth of targeted training - particularly in areas of special need.  I coordinate services for children and families who have the need for various therapies, and work with the educators in their classrooms and many therapists. I’m also the notary for our Shalom Austin community.

What is your background, and what brought you to Shalom Austin?
I have a BS in Psychology, an MEd in Special Education, and a background in both Business, Politics, and Education. I suppose I am a “Renaissance Woman” – I have worked at a pediatrician’s office, ran a Marketing Office, administered a federal grant at George Mason University, worked for the Texas Speaker of the House as the Public Education Specialist, audited school districts and universities for both the Comptroller’s Office and the Legislative Budget Board, and taught in preschool and elementary school. These are all secondary to my primary job – mom to three great children, Matthew (22), Jennifer (21), and Caroline (19 next month).
I came to the ECP nine years ago when I was looking for a job that was close to Murchison Middle School, as my oldest daughter had a serious health condition. It turned out well for her and me. My children were able to walk to the J from Murchison and Anderson, where they all attended, and I was close enough to continue to volunteer at their schools. I have been a part of the “family” here ever since.

What do you feel has been your most rewarding experience so far?
Hands down, I feel like I have been able to help so many children, parents, and educators over the years understand that people are just that – people. We all have challenges. We all have gifts. We are not “broken” or damaged just because we may learn a little differently than what some may consider the norm. We are put here on earth, in my humble opinion, to share our G-d given gifts. THAT is what is rewarding to me – sharing my gifts with others.

What is your favorite part about working here?
…the people! The Shalom Austin community is such a positive group; I feel like we are really more like a family, and I absolutely love that ruach or spirit! (I have a picture – somewhere – with a picture of me at 16 years old wearing a youth group t-shirt with a glittery “Ruach” emblazoned on the front! Yes, I’ve always been that kind of a person!)

Describe any exciting programs or projects in the works.
I am very excited about some expanded professional development and professional library acquisitions aimed at raising the levels of experience and knowledge for our educators in the area of brain development. Additionally, our Sheva Program (based on a Reggio Emilia-inspired educational philosophy) is just a blast to implement! Our educators are really excited and are at a level this year that we have never reached in the past. Our administrative team, including a new Curriculum Manager, are amazing, and we complement each other well. I also get super excited about … auditing! Yes, I enjoyed developing an in-depth Excel variance program for our budget – I’m our numbers girl and am proud to be an Excel junkie!

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
To quote, Nike…”Just Do It!” I don’t think I have to say anything more!

 

Marvin Brittman
Shalom Austin Volunteer

What is your role at Shalom Austin?
I am a member of the cabinet of the Shalom Austin Jewish Foundation and serve as co-chair, along with Steve Gellman, of the Foundation's Investment and Finance Committee. I am also a member of several other ad hoc committees of the Foundation.

What made you decide to become a Shalom Austin volunteer?
When I first moved to Austin and began to spend time on the JCC campus, I immediately sensed a welcoming ambience from so many. As I got to know people like Dana Baruch, who has given so much of her time to the Austin Jewish community, I was inspired to take on a more active volunteering role.

Why is volunteering so important to you?
Simply stated, it's a way to pay-it-forward. I've also volunteered at Circle of Friends, a weekly Alzheimer's respite at Congregation Beth Israel for the past six years and find these activities rewarding beyond my wildest expectations.

What is your background?
I'm originally from The Bronx, NY but grew up in Miami Beach, Florida. I'm an MBA graduate of The University of Miami and was a practicing CPA for a number of years before becoming the Chief Operating Officer of Vinson & Elkins (an international law firm based in Houston) and subsequently the Executive Director of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, a firm of 200+ lawyers in New York City. I retired from Patterson after 20 years at the end of 2008 and came to Austin to follow my beautiful grandchildren.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
You personally get more from the Shalom Austin community than you give and don't be afraid to start young. ■

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Israeli and Palestinian Young Women Learning to Let Down Their Defenses at Camp

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