Kate Brantley, Early Childhood Education Director
Shalom Y’all! My name is Kate and I am the Director of Shalom Children’s Center. I have been working in Early Childhood Education as a teacher, specialist, and administrator.
I began working in the field of Early Childhood Education as a teacher at the Apple Orchard School. This is a pre-school located on the last working farm in the Boston area. Working with 3-5 year olds in an outdoor setting inspired me to continue my education towards a teaching degree. My undergraduate degree is in Creative Writing from High Point University. While in Boston, I also ran an outdoor education camp for school age children at The Park School, volunteered teaching writing with Citizen Schools, and attended Boston University where I obtained a MA in Elementary Education.
In 2007, I moved to Asheville and taught Head Start in Madison County. I then taught Kindergarten at Evergreen Community Charter School and at Maccabi Academy of Asheville. While I was at Maccabi, I was immersed in Jewish culture and values through our Global Concepts curriculum. This enabled me to enhance the already thriving values based curriculum at Shalom Children’s Center when I came on as Director in 2010. In 2013, I was accepted into the Early Childhood Directors Leadership Institute- a statewide initiative to cultivate leaders in the field. I have also been working with the JCCA to develop our school as a SHEVA center and continue toward the designation of a School of Excellence.
I enjoy helping to build young minds during their first 2000 days- a crucial time for brain development! I work very hard at Shalom to enhance our Early Childhood community- because it is my community! I have a daughter named Harper and a son named Jefferson- both members of the JCC! When I am not at Shalom, I enjoy music, hiking, traveling, and cooking. Thank you for sharing your children with me!
Tiffany Hagemeyer, Early Childhood Program Coordinator
My name is Tiffany and I am so happy to be part of the Shalom Children’s Center team! I moved to Asheville in 2012 after spending most of my life in the Midwest, and I love the community I have found here in the mountains. I am a former classroom teacher and I have several years of experience working with children in a variety of settings—from infants and toddlers in a developmental day program, to adolescents and families in behavioral and mental health treatment services. I have a M.Ed from the University of Toledo in Educational Theory and Social Foundations, a B.A. in Sociology, Religion, and Women’s studies from Luther College, and an Early Childhood Credential. I take special interest in brain-based learning strategies, educational policy and advocacy, cultural competency, and peace education. I believe in creating a positive school environment that is child-centered, and understand how teachers build a community of peace each day through word and action. As a working mom, I value our children, families, and teachers as integral parts to a whole and uphold a commitment to serve them in ways that build our community to be stronger, happier, and full of love!
Catherine Brockwell, teacher
Hi! I am Catherine. I have worked at the JCC since 1997. I was born and raised in Asheville. My husband and I have raised two children here as well. They both grew up at the JCC. This has been my home away from home for two decades! In my time here, I have worked with several age groups. The past ten years have been spent in the infant room. The babies are where my heart and talent flourish. I continue to be amazed every day watching them grow and interact with each other. I am a nurturer by nature and feel that parents/caregivers of infants need nurturing, too! I feel very blessed to be a part of the JCC family and these babies lives!
Janell Cooper, teacher
My name is Janell. I moved to Asheville a few years ago from California, where I grew up. I have about 15 years of experience working with young children! I began helping out with my mother’s in-home daycare and children’s programs from a very young age. I have learned so much working with children! I am so fascinated by learning about people, in fact, that I have a B.A. in Anthropology, a minor in Religious Studies and a certificate in Early Childhood Education. My passion for traveling has been partially fueled by my anthropological interests and began with going on volunteer trips in high school. I’ve since traveled to various places in the U.S., Costa Rica, Australia and have actually spent time living off-and-on in the Yucatan region of Mexico. During these travels I’ve participated in activities like judging a school spelling bee, planting trees, and protecting baby sea turtles. As of this year, I am the Chair of the Valladolid- Asheville Sister City, an amazing connection between Asheville and a city in Mexico that I love and have spent a lot of time in. Feel free to ask me about it! In addition to traveling, I love to swim, hike, camp, read, write, take pictures and make jewelry. I’m very excited to be living in the beautiful area and like-minded community of Asheville and working here at Shalom Children’s Center.
Haviva Dror, lead teacher
My name is Haviva, and I was born and grew up in Israel. I moved to Asheville in 2001 with my husband and three children, and began working at the JCC in 2003. After working a short while at the JCC, I began my studies in Early Childhood Education, and successfully completed my AAS degree at A-B Tech. I love working with pre-k children. I feel that I learn just as much from the children in my class as they learn from me. In addition to working at the JCC, I also teach Hebrew. I enjoy reading, cooking, yoga, Pilates, and spending time with family and friends.
Emily Fishman, floater
My name is Emily and I have been living in Asheville since 2016. I am originally from New York and I went to college at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA where I received my degree in Art Therapy. Throughout college, I pursued a passion in art and psychology as well as working with children and adolescents. I was drawn to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the unique qualities of Asheville and moved shortly after graduating. In my free time I enjoy making art such as painting and collaging, hiking and exploring Asheville, cooking and yoga. I am so excited to be part of the community at the Asheville JCC and Shalom Children’s Center!
Rosa Friedrichs, floater
My name is Rosa and I am a graduate of Earlham College where I studied Ceramics and Outdoor Education. While at Earlham I taught art for 3 years in a preschool/kindergarten class at a Quaker Elementary school. I incorporate art and the experience of facilitating and nurturing the confidence and creativity of young children into my work as a floater. I have worked at the JCC since 2015 as a floater and Nature Specialist for Camp Ruach. The opportunity to observe the details of nature is ever-present and I look forward to sharing the wonders of nature with the children. So much learning takes place in the first five years which influences the way the child views themselves in the world, how they learn, and how they interact with their peers, laying the roadwork for a positive future. I know the teachers at Shalom have those learning experiences foremost in their minds and I am excited to be part of the teaching team that will help your child lay the foundation to the positive futures they have ahead of them! In my free time I like to work on my ceramics, rock climb, dance, write letters, read, and learn French and American Sign Language.
Lauren Garrison, teacher
My name is Lauren and I am so excited to be working at Shalom Children’s Center. My husband and I are native North Carolinians who just moved back to the area after an eleven-year stint in Minneapolis, MN. It’s wonderful to be home and I’m happy to be able to work closely within the community again. I have an immense love for sculpture and photography, especially traditional film and polaroid. I’ve worked as a gallery and editorial photographer for 8 years. I attended Maryville College and Huntingdon college, studying photography and fine arts, as well as minoring in psychology. Over time my interest in psychology has grown and I plan to continue my education in child psychology and art therapy. During my time in MN, I developed a desire to work within the community by helping individuals maintain a healthy lifestyle and mental wellness through art and creativity. Looking for ways to merge my interest in art and psychology, I spent time working with vulnerable adults living with schizophrenia and biopolar disorder, focusing on art therapy. After 4 years developing my skills working with adults, I transitioned over to teaching at a wonderful Montessori school. I developed close bonds with the 2 and 3 year olds in my class and enjoyed discovering ways to teach that embraced each child’s unique personality and learning style. It’s important to me that I provide a warm and nurturing environment with positivity, patience, creativity, and humor, to help each child feel they can be themselves and learn at their own pace.
Gina Groomes, teacher
My name is Gina and I’m very excited about being a part of the teaching team! I was born in New York and have also lived in Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Washington. Out of all the places I have lived, Asheville, NC is my favorite! I have two daughters, Rebecca and Danielle, plus two sweet cats that also traveled the country with us. My experience in education during the past 18 years has provided me with many wonderful and fulfilling positions. I have worked in kindergarten through fifth grade and in Special Education with children with special needs. I also held the position of an after school counselor for grades 3-5. Thank you for the opportunity and privilege to get to know your children and teach them!
Rasheeda Hampton-Johnson, teacher
My name is Rasheeda and I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. I am a published author of two children’s books inspired by my children. I have over 12 years of experience in the child care field, and I am excited to share my love for children with the JCC. I am the mother of four awesome children, Dorian Mackayla, Judah, and Amorah. You may see them here, if not at Camp Tikvah, working and volunteering with me in the classroom. I am eager to work with your children, and with the wonderful community of the JCC.
Meagan Holmes, teacher
Hello, my name is Meagan. I have lived in Asheville for over 20 years, and I have a wonderful son who attends school in Weaverville. I attended Erwin High school, and worked in Buncombe County Schools for four years. I attended college at Western Carolina University where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education. I enjoy learning and exploring the world every day through the child’s eyes!
Karla Johnson, floater
Hello, my name is Karla. I started working at the Asheville JCC in 2016 as substitute teacher in Shalom. In 2017 I became the floater at Hilde’s House. I am currently enrolled at AB Tech working towards a Early Childhood Education Certificate. I enjoy working with infants and toddlers, and hope to get to know you all better.
Zequoia Jordan, lead teacher
My name is Zequoia, and my husband and I are both Asheville natives! We have two goofy children, Bently and Coryn. I graduated from SILSA at Asheville High School in 2010 and I am currently studying at AB Tech to earn my Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education. I have more than 13 years of experience working in a child care center classroom. I have worked in various programs in the area as a volunteer, substitute, floater, assistant teacher and now lead teacher. While working in these programs, I enjoyed working with a range of different aged children from infants to pre-kindergarten. I’m proud to have been a part of Shalom Children’s Center since 2011! My special interests include arts, conflict resolution, encouraging movement and dance, reading, and encouraging self-help and confidence.
Lily Kane, teacher
My name is Lily and I am originally from western Massachusetts. I was raised by a preschool teacher and spent many afternoons volunteering at the school with my mom. I worked at throughout my adolescence and began substituting when I was on breaks from college. I received a B.A. in Dance and Psychology focusing on trust development from Marlboro College in Vermont. When I moved to Asheville, I was unsure of how long I would stay and what I would do, but I knew I wanted to work with children. Luckily, a spot opened up in the Shalom Pre-K program in 2016 and I found my place and I am happy to have roots. The JCC is such an incredible community to be a part of and the pre-k is a wonderful place to spend each day. When I am not at school, I enjoy dancing, doing yoga, cooking, reading and being outdoors.
Sherrill Knight, lead teacher
My name is Sherrill and I grew up in Charlotte, NC. I graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in Fine Arts. Later, an interest in education took me to UNC-A for a degree in Elementary Education. I have now been teaching for over 30 years. I am the mother of two daughters, two sons, and the grandmother of five grandchildren. The heart and soul of my teaching philosophy is expressed in our class motto: “We’re all friends at school” – from the microcosm of the preschool community to the world, our island in space. Outside of school, I enjoy reading, science and nature documentaries, art, sewing, gardening and spending time with friends and family.
Virginia Lamm, teacher
My name is Virginia and I was born in Asheville, NC. I have been a teacher for over 20 years and I have been with the Asheville JCC for 13 years. Before working at the JCC, I worked as a lead teacher in a Head Start program. In my leisure time away from the JCC, I spent time with my husband and grandchildren. I started my teaching career in Germany where I started studying Early Childhood Education through the military, and later continued study in the states at Blue Ridge Community College. I was accepted into the National Vocational Technical Honor Society and I hold a CDA for infant and toddler age care.
Shannon Ledford, lead teacher
Hello everyone! My name is Shannon, and I have had the joy to work in the infant room at Hilde’s House since 2016! I have worked in childcare most of my life. I grew up with my mom having a home day care, so I was always around children growing up, and always eager to help. This is where my passion for taking care of children was born. I learned how to care for children of all ages in the most nurturing and loving way. I am so excited to be a part of such a wonderful community here at the JCC. I love being able to learn new things everyday and to watch your children grow!
Gaby Mcclure, floater
My name is Gaby and I have lived in Asheville, NC my entire life and I love the mountains. I am the oldest of five and I love doing crafts, swimming and hiking. Working with children is my passion and I am excited to have an awesome year at the JCC! I have been working in child care for almost five years and I am incredibly excited to be working in the classrooms at the JCC. In high school I had an internship at A.C. Reynolds Preschool’s five-start child care facility for two years. Over the past three summers I have been a camp counselor and I have worked in afterschool and for a few months last year I was the site director for their afterschool program. I am currently finishing up my Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education at AB Tech.
Monica McDaniel, lead teacher
My name is Monica, and I was born and raised in Asheville, NC. I am a mother of one, and her name is A-iah. I have been working in childcare for over 19 years. I have worked with children of all ages and stages of life. I am currently in school at Blue Ridge Community College working on my Associates Degree. I love working with children, I feel that they keep you youthful! I am also a writer and two time author. My books of poetry and short stories are The Soul of a Poet and Misty’s Blues- Secret Diaries. I am currently working on my first novel in a miniseries. I have also written and produced a play at A.C.T. based on my first book. I am excited to be at Shalom Children’s Center!
Carolyn Myers, lead teacher
My name is Carolyn, and I started teaching at Shalom Children’s Center in 1991. Overall, my years of experience in teaching, directing, and owning a preschool through second grade covers 45 years. I also have a firm background in Montessori philosophy, as well as Jewish education. I have over 30 years of experience in developing and implementing intergenerational activities between young children and senior citizens around the Asheville area. I am happy to be in my 27th year at the Asheville JCC.
Leigh Schuller, lead teacher
My name is Leigh and I am proud to be part of the teaching team at Hilde’s House. I have worked at the Asheville JCC since 2006 and have “worn many hats”, including substitute teacher, classroom teacher for the 2’s, 3-4’s, and Pre-K age groups, interim director, BBYO youth advisor, bus driver, and Early Childhood Assistant Director. I have a large scope when it comes to the many aspects and programs the JCC has to offer. I received a Bachelor of Instrumental Music Education (k-12) from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2002, and have continued my education professionally and academically in the field of Early Childhood Education (birth-Kindergarten). In 2014, I became a trained facilitator of Parenting the Love and Logic Way. I play the trumpet and guitar. I also enjoy seeing live music shows, being in nature, cooking for friends, and crocheting. I am grateful to spend my days surrounded by professional educators and curious children. In this environment, we can all grow and learn from each other.
Paige Tisdale, lead teacher
My name is Paige and I am originally from Burlington, NC. I lived in Asheville from 1995 to 2001 and relocated back here with my son in 2010. I am a graduate of Appalachian State University and my 20 plus years of education experience includes multiple roles in elementary and early childhood education. Teaching children is a calling which I approach with intentionality and care. Celebrating my seventh year at Shalom Children’s Center, I am honored to have the opportunity to help guide children on their educational journey.
Will Tocaben, teacher
Hi, I’m Will. I have two boys, Noah and Elliot, both of whom went to Hilde’s House and on through Shalom. They loved their experience and I was impressed with the level of care they received. I am from New York originally and moved to Asheville in 1998. I play music in my spare time, focusing on the lute and early music. I have a B.F.A. In guitar and lute performance and received my early childhood education certification at AB Tech. I love working with the toddlers, playing with them, and feel honored to be a part of their lives and development.
Amber Williams, lead teacher
My name is Amber and I am excited to be at the JCC! I was born and raised here in Asheville, and I love being outdoors. I have an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education and over 10 years of experience in different childcare centers. I deeply believe that children learn the most in an environment that is rich in opportunities to learn independence, self-value, and respect for themselves and others. I believe that each child has something unique and awesome to bring to the classroom and work to showcase their special qualities. I welcomed my own little bundle of joy in 2017, his name is Austin and I am overwhelmed with joy to have him. I am happy that we are part of the Shalom family!
Jacqui Childs, Garden Specialist
Penny White, Judaics Specialist
Miri Massachi, Music & Movement Specialist
Substitute Teaching Staff
Suzanne “Oma” Friedrichs
Jo Ann “Savta” Kelvin