We are so looking forward to school starting next Wednesday. Our staff has been working hard all week in training and planning sessions and preparing their classrooms for the arrival of our students. What an impressive group of teachers we have lined up for our 2018-2019 school year! Welcome back to our returning staff members and a warm welcome to our new BYDS staff. We’d like to introduce our newest staff members below.
Jennifer LeVine, Director of Early Childhood
For the last 12 years, Ms. Jennifer has served in a variety of teaching and administrative roles in Jewish day schools, specifically at Kadima Day School in Los Angeles, and most recently as the Associate Head of School/Principal at Akiba Academy in Dallas. Her academic background includes a Master of Arts in Education from Pepperdine University and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Loyola Marymount University. The importance and value of Jewish education has been the foundation of her childhood (as a Jewish day school graduate) and of her career. As both an educator and mother of three children, Ms. Jennifer believes strongly that each child should be met and challenged at his/her developmental level in a safe and nurturing environment that promotes authentic and experiential learning opportunities, in addition to being taught through a well-developed curriculum that integrates general and Judaic studies.
Vivian Blum, Director of Advancement
Originally from New York, Vivian Blum came to Texas as fast as she could! Vivian joins BYDS after an eleven-year tenure as Admission Director at The Post Oak School. Previously, Vivian worked at Robert M. Beren Academy as the Director of Admission. In both schools, Vivian worked in a school advancement model, working alongside the development and marketing teams, creating a cohesive group of professionals working to advance the work of each school. Her life’s work has been in service to children and families. We are honored to have her on our team with more than 16 years of proven success in welcoming mission-appropriate families into schools. Vivian holds both an MEd in Montessori education as well as a Montessori Primary diploma. She and her husband, Henry, have two daughters, one grandson (who lives with his parents in Israel) and a little tan maltipoo. In her spare time, Vivian enjoys cooking, embroidery, and other handicrafts.
Megan Uzick, Director of Student Services
After spending seven years building her career in education, Mrs. Uzick is excited to join the BYDS Student Services Team. She has been a teacher at Bunker Hill Elementary in Spring Branch ISD for most of her career. There she participated in the district’s leadership training cohort. Mrs. Uzick led the campus ELA vertical team, participated on the campus improvement team, and was active on other school committees. She has mentored student teachers as well as her peers. In 2017 Mrs. Uzick received the Teacher of the Year award. She earned a liberal arts degree in Jewish Studies and Sociology from Emory University. She is married to a BYDS alumnus and they have one adorable son.
Niara Malveaux, CDO Teaching Assistant
Ms. Niara has worked with children for more than four years as a preschool teacher, camp leader, and behavioral therapist. It brings her great joy to be a part of their smiles and development, while demonstrating how to have fun while learning. Ms. Niara is currently studying Child and Family Development at Texas Southern University, working toward a career as a child and family psychologist. Her hobbies are arts and crafts and music. She can play the piano and is learning to play the guitar. “I believe that the combination of music and art brings great growth in the development of creativity and strengthens your peace. I can’t wait to be a part of such a great team of faculty, community, and families.”
Morgan Gerson, Twos Teacher
Ms. Morgan was born in San Diego and moved to Texas when she was five years old (she proudly calls herself a Texan). She has worked with children for five years, ranging from infants to Pre-K. She is grateful for the opportunity to work in a nurturing, loving environment where children can learn and experience new challenges that help to build their confidence while they play. She is very adventurous and loves to fish, hike, and try new foods. “I look forward to continued success and new discoveries with an amazing team of teachers at Beth Yeshurun Day School.
Raen Casseday, Twos Teaching Assistant
Ms. Raen was born and raised in Houston. She has worked in child care for eight years building confidence, courage, and character in her students. She enjoys spending time with family, watching movies, and reading comics. Ms. Raen’s hobbies are collecting enamel pins and dog training. “My main goal when teaching children is to make sure they feel safe and loved at all times.”
Laura Bonilla, Twos Teaching Assistant
Ms. Laura was born in El Salvador and came to the United States 12 years ago. She graduated from Bellaire High School and earned her certification as a Nurse Assistant. She has more than four years of experience working with young children. Ms. Laura joined our Extended Day Enrichment team in Spring 2018 with our youngest classes and as a long-term substitute in Ms. Katie’s Twos class. She also was a valued Camp BYDS counselor this past summer and loved familiarizing herself even more with the school. Ms. Laura enjoys every aspect of teaching and fully believes that children can teach us as often as we teach them. She is also working to obtain her bachelor’s degree in education and is so grateful for the opportunity to work with the Twos. “I cannot wait to watch my students learn and grow.
Cynthia Martinez, Pre-K Teacher
Ms. Martinez is a native Houstonian. She has more than 10 years of daycare experience working with children ages 16 months to six years old. This is a very influential age for children and she enjoys helping them to explore and learn new things. She has worked with Katy ISD in its Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities. In this education field, she enjoys helping children excel educationally in a creative and fun way that is unique to each child despite any perceived limitations. It is her passion to inspire children to challenge themselves to develop their creativity educationally. Shortly after earning her Bachelor’s degree, she began working as a licensing inspector for the State of Texas. She was even assigned to work with BYDS during our temporary relocation after Harvey. It was during this time that she became so impressed with our highly qualified program’s ability to continue to care for the children and support the community during these trying times. One thing missing from her work with the State was working one-on-one with the children, so she is very excited to join our Pre-K team and looks forward to building long-lasting relationships with her students and their families.
Ms. Martinez enjoys spending time outdoors kayaking, hiking, and biking in Texas State Parks and local bayous. She is also part of a local non-profit group that sponsors and guides families and schools in outdoor activities. She is a Houston sports fan and likes travelling with her family. “I look forward to exploring new experiences this year with you and your children.”
Miriam Ilechukwu, Pre-K Teaching Assistant
Originally from Nigeria, West Africa, Ms. Miriam moved to the U.S. in 1995 in pursuit of higher education. She graduated from Southern University in New Orleans, Louisiana with a degree in Sociology and then earned her Master’s in Social Work. She has been in Houston since 2010 where she continues to focus on teaching children. Ms. Miriam joined the BYDS faculty in 2017. She enjoys teaching, reading, and traveling.
Adrienne Louden, Kindergarten Teacher
Ms. Louden has been teaching for 18 years. Born and raised in Kansas City, MO, she always felt a connection with Houston and relocated here in 2015. She holds her Bachelor of Science in Vocal Music and is still a productive member of her sorority. In May 2010 she earned an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction (Preschool – 12th grade). In conjunction with her education, she has taken administration courses and participated in early childhood and elementary professional development trainings. Within her 18 years of teaching, Ms. Louden has taught Pre- K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade in public, private, and charter schools. Ms. Louden loves to sing and belongs to two professional choral groups. She enjoys spending quality time with family and friends.
“My teaching philosophy: teach each child at his or her own pace. Children are natural born learners and it is our job to cultivate them to their highest potential. I believe in trying new and old strategies for the best outcomes since each child learns differently. You never know what it will take for a student to have a ‘eureka’ moment. I firmly believe that when parents and teachers work together for the students, we can help them achieve their goals. My goal for this year is to build community, relationships, academia, and having a memorable kindergarten year!”
Madelyn Nance, 1st Grade Teacher
Ms. Nance is a Texas native with a passion for education and a love of travel. She understands the value of community and teamwork from playing on youth community soccer and basketball teams. During high school, she expanded her conceptualization of community and expression as a clarinetist and bass clarinetist with marching bands and concert bands. Through her experiences and interactions with teachers throughout her schooling, Ms. Nance decided to become a teacher to pass on the encouragement, support and guidance she felt were so crucial to her life. She learned quickly that many of the needs of her students were connected to larger needs within their families. This led her to obtain a Master’s in Counseling and recently counseled a variety of children for HISD. Ms. Nance earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education focusing on Early Childhood – 4th Grade. She also holds a supplemental certificate in ESL. She has taught elementary math, science, and reading in local public and charter schools for more than 5 years. She has served as a department chair, team lead, and TLAC specialist.
Ms. Nance is also an avid reader of all genres of books, especially mysteries and historical nonfiction. She grew up reading books with her family, visiting the local libraries, and listening to audiobooks on tapes and records. She enjoys traveling to learn about different traditions, customs and languages. In addition to traveling in her free time, she loves the science behind baking and cooking. For years, she has collaborated with friends to bake and decorate themed birthday cakes using fondant and icing.
She is excited to be a part of Beth Yeshurun Day School and considers it an honor to support children in the excitement, discovery, and exploration of their elementary education.
Rachel Toubin, 2nd Grade Teacher
Mrs. Toubin grew up in Houston as a member of Congregation Beth Yeshurun. She earned her degree from University of Texas in Applied Learning and Development specializing in Special Education and Regular Education in Early Childhood through high school. She attained her Master’s Degree in Education from the University of St. Thomas and is also a certified Diagnostician. Prior to moving back to Houston, she taught special education in Austin. Mrs. Toubin also taught 1st grade at Horn Elementary for seven years until she had her two children. Her son Sam is 15 years old and daughter Peri is 12. She has been involved with Beth Yeshurun Day school for many years as a board member, active PTO member, and, most recently, frequent substitute for our teachers.
Shira Mytelka, Judaic Studies Teacher (1st/2nd Grade)
Ms. Mytelka grew up in Brooklyn, New York and attended Shulamith School for Girls and then Bat Torah Academy for high school. In high school she studied Hebrew and Judaic Studies on the honors track and earned credits for AP Hebrew, otherwise known as the Bechina Yerushalmit. She attended the Shalhevet Seminary for women in Jerusalem after high school, and then completed her Bachelor’s Degree at the City University of New York, Brooklyn College. After moving to Houston, she completed the courses for Texas Teaching Certification. She has taught at Helfman Religious School at Congregation Emanu-El, Yeshiva Torat Emet, and even at BYDS for a couple years. She is very excited to be returning to BYDS, and is looking forward to having an awesome year with her students!
Ashley Nichols, 3rd Grade Teacher
Ms. Nichols has been teaching in elementary school for more than six years. She grew up in the Lake Travis area right outside of Austin. Growing up in the hill country shaped her love of the outdoors and instilled a strong sense of adventure. She moved to Houston after graduating from Texas State University in 2013. During college, Ms. Nichols was the Vice President of her ACEI (Association for Childhood Education International) chapter and a very active volunteer. Since moving to Houston she has taught 1st and 5th grade. She also has experience working with small group interventions and coaching a Destination Imagination team! “I am so excited to be part of Beth Yeshurun and very eager to begin this school year!”