Kim Garra, Director, Mandel Early Childhood Education Center

Phone: (330) 835-0044  |  Email: kgarra@jewishakron.org

Kim Garra was born in Alexandria, Va., but grew up in Canton, OH., and moved to Michigan after her graduation from college. She received her B.A. in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education from Malone College. She has certification in elementary education, early childhood, and some coursework in Special Needs education. Kim has worked in a variety of educational capacities throughout her career, from preschool teacher, educational aide for students with special needs, and respite care giver for autistic children, to Early Childhood Education Director at several centers in Michigan.

 

Kim and her husband Jeff have three children ranging in age from 16-24.  Their free time is spent biking, kayaking and enjoying family time together. Kim’s favorite quotation about education is an apt summary of her engagement with parents and children at the Shaw JCC: “Children don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Katie Brunson

Teaching since 2003

Katie was born and raised in Akron, OH.  She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Child Development from The University of Akron. Katie says, “To me, the most rewarding part of working with kids is when they surprise me and teach me something new and unexpected. I love having the opportunity to work with children on a daily basis and see their progress as they grow throughout the year.” Katie teaches Pre K in the morning and works with our KinderClub students in the afternoons. She is also a parent at our school-her twin boys, Calvin and Cameron attend our program.     

Lisa Pesantez

Teaching since 1985

Lisa was born in Akron and attended the Balch Street Jewish Center as a preschooler. Her family moved to New Jersey when she was 5, but relocated back to Akron where her first job was as a counselor at the Balch Center. Lisa attended Ohio University where she studied English, and is currently working on her CDA. “Being part of the lives of these children is extremely rewarding,” Lisa says. “To see and help them build a foundation for their lives is amazing. Watching and learning with each and every child is an amazing opportunity. As I finish my 30th year teaching, I look back at how much I have grown with all the children who have touched my life, and made this such a rewarding place to be.”

 

Khori Hoover

Teaching since 2010

Khori joined our staff in 2010. She is a graduate of both Barberton High School and the Akron Beauty School, Inc. In her spare time, Khori enjoys exercising, hiking, and biking, and anything to do with the outdoors! She worked as a nanny prior to joining our staff and will complete her CDA in Early Childhood Education this summer. “It is fun watching them grow and develop into their own little person with so much personality! I feel so blessed to be given this opportunity to work with these little ones on a daily basis- they all bring such joy to my life.”

Sue Brady

Teaching since 1991

Sue has been affiliated with the Shaw JCC in many different capacities. She began as a babysitter and later worked at the Center as a gymnastics instructor. As she says, “Needless to say, the JCC has been an important part of my life for a long time.” She attended Firestone High School and lives in the community with her family. “Among the things I love most about working at the Mandel ECE are: Watching the children’s eyes light up when they have learned something new or figured something out; Seeing the children build friendships and grow as learners; Learning from the children as I watch them explore the world around them; and finally, being remembered by former students after they’ve grown up and knowing I played a small part in their success.”

Kelly Burt

Teaching since 2013

Kelly has a Montessori Teaching Diploma for ages 3 through 6, as well as a diploma in Medical Assisting. She was born and grew up in England, moving here in 2005. Kelly is concerned about adoption and foster care services and currently attends The University of Akron where she is finishing a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. “I enjoy watching the children grow and learn new things every day; seeing their faces light up when they learn something new makes me feel excited to be the one sharing and exploring these new experiences with them on a daily basis.”

Ayelet Torem, BA

Teaching since 2000

Ayelet was born in a suburb of Tel-Aviv (Petach-Tikvah), Israel and moved with her family to the United States when she was very young. She speaks Hebrew fluently. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Education with a focus on Early Childhood Education from the University of Akron and has been employed at the Shaw JCC for over 15 years. “I love teaching young children and sharing my Jewish, Israeli, and Hebrew background with them. It amazes me how children learn and grasp information so quickly, and I am fascinated to see them grow and develop right before my eyes. I feel that I am truly blessed to work with children, and I can’t imagine doing anything else!”

Maublette E. Hill, CDA

Teachings since 1998

Maublette was born in Kingston, Jamaica West Indies. She studied Biochemistry at Moravian College, and also studied at the Bronx Community College for Social Work. Maublette will complete a CDA in Early Childhood Education this summer. She enjoys working with our infant/toddler classes and says, “I truly believe that children are our future and I take pride in making a difference in children’s lives.”

Michelle Benvie, BA

Teaching since 2002

Michelle Benvie was born in Barberton, OH and attended Barberton High School. She went to University of Akron and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She has spent her entire teaching career at the Shaw JCC and this will be her 13th year teaching here. Michelle has taught many age groups, but has specialized in three year olds. “I wake up every morning eager to come to school to see what new discoveries the children in my class will make!” Michelle takes special pride in teaching children about the many Jewish holidays that comprise the school year, and the universal values that are foundational to our school community. She is a proponent of Conscious Discipline within the classroom and works hard to build enduring connections between home and school. 

Camille Smith, BA

Teaching since 2014

Camille was born and raised in Akron, OH, where she attended Copley-Fairlawn High School. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education. She began her JCC career in the school-age department, and later joined the Mandel ECE where she teaches two year olds. “I love walking in the door and being greeted by all the children. There is constant love, always! I love watching them interact with one another and build their language skills.” Camille enjoys Shaw because the teachers know all of the children and everyone is so welcoming. In her spare time, she enjoys golfing and traveling with her sister, who also works at the Shaw JCC.

Rachel Osherow, BA

Teaching since 2014 

Rachel was raised in Akron and is thrilled to be teaching where she attended preschool years ago. After earning a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Denver, Rachel started working with young children in an outpatient research and treatment center, then at a residential treatment center as a therapeutic child care worker for adolescents with special needs.

"It is so exciting to witness young children learning about themselves and the world around them, and to see their curiosity, persistence and sense of accomplishment and success. There is nothing like a child's smile when he or she has just 'figured it out!'"

Outside of the classroom Rachel is involved with various organizations in the community, including Rubber City Jews, Beth El Synagogue, and the Summit Choral Society. Rachel enjoys making music (especially singing), hiking, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Brian Richards, BA

Teaching since 2000

Brian was born in Akron, OH and attended Springfield High School. Following high school, Brian attended Walsh University, where he graduated with a degree in Clinical Community Psychology.  Prior to coming to the Shaw JCC, Brian worked with children and parents to assist them in resolving  behavioral problems . Brian has excellent communication skills and establishes warm relationships with the children in his classes. At Shaw, he began as a worker in school-age department, working with children from kindergarten through sixth grade. He began work as a substitute in Early Childhood the past two years, and began as a fulltime teacher this fall, working with infants in Rooms 2 and 3. “What I like most about teaching is when I see the positive behaviors I have modeled in my interactions with the children being used by the children when they interact with one another- one child rubbing another’s back when they are upset, or helping a friend stand up if they’ve fallen- that makes me feel like I’ve done my job well.” Brian is also the father of a former Shaw JCC preschooler, Nate, who is now in elementary school.

Claudia Agyemang, BA

Teaching since 2015

Claudia Agyemang will be graduating this December with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in family and children services. “Growing up, it never occurred to me that I would become passionate about early childhood development. Volunteering in high school and furthering my education has fueled my passion for caring and nurturing children.” Claudia began this summer as an assistant teacher with Kindergarten Kaytana and will continue as a toddler teacher.

Claudia is bilingual, first generation born in New Jersey, raised in Fairfield, Ohio and currently resides in Akron. She loves to travel and has taught at The Gingerbread House International Montessori  in Ghana, West Africa. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends. She also enjoys shopping, volunteering in her community, and reading. Her goal is for “the children to have fun while learning new things and to make everyday a day full of smiles. Thank you for allowing me into your children’s lives. l look forward to a continued success here at Shaw JCC of Akron.”

Joyce Williams, BA

Teaching since 2003

Joyce Williams grew up in Akron and graduated from North High School. She attended the University of Akron where as a student, she helped staff the Center for Child Development and was later hired as a fulltime employee. She earned an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Family and Child Development. She has been a teacher for over 12 years, specializing in young toddlers. She enjoys “working on extended art projects in the classroom, singing songs, reading stories, and creating an atmosphere where we can all learn and grow together.”