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WOMEN INFLUENCE

OF 2016


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Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016


Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016

Women of I nfluence Saratoga County’s 2013

Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Publisher Chad Beatty

General Manager Robin Mitchell Writer Megan Harrington Graphic Designers Andrew Ranalli Morgan Rook Alyssa Jackson Account Executives Chris Bushee Jim Daley Cindy Durfey Photographers Mark Bolles Deborah Neary Sponsored by:

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Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016

Women of I nfluence

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Saratoga County’s 2013

Shelly Amato By Megan Harrington

The first thing you’ll notice about Shelly Amato is her sweet personality and upbeat attitude, but underneath that smile you’ll also find a powerhouse of a CFO. For the past 13 years, Shelly has managed the financials for the Wesley Community, a nonprofit retirement community that serves 800 senior citizens and employs over 600 individuals locally. Before she became Wesley’s Chief Financial Officer, Shelly earned her accounting degree and MBA from SUNY Albany then worked for Ernst and Young in New York City. Since her parents lived upstate, this dutiful daughter eventually felt the call to return to the area. She moved back to the Saratoga area and began working for another big four accounting firm – KPMG. Shelly became familiar with The Wesley Community while working with KPMG (they were a client) and she eventually made the jump to the non-profit world in 2003. Shelly says, “I absolutely fell in love with the community

Photos by MarkBolles.com

and co-workers, it’s like working with a great big family.” She continues, “I really believe it’s not so much what you do, but who you do it with.” Shelly’s responsibilities largely revolve around the Wesley Community’s big picture financials such as a tax credit refinancing effort that generated 13 million dollars for a renovation at Embury Apartments. Shelly also successfully worked on a mortgage refinancing effort that has led the Wesley Health Care Center to be debt-free, something that her nominator Robert Ward, a Vice President and Marketing Manager for Adirondack Trust Company, says, “Is a feat shared by very few other nursing homes.” But while Shelly is at the helm of Wesley’s Finance Department, she’s quick to cite the hard work of her colleagues. She says, “It’s all about teamwork. I rely so heavily on the incredible group of people that we have working in the finance department. I couldn’t do it without them!” While she still deals in the finance realm, Shelly says there were obvious differences when she moved from KPMG to Wesley. “There was definitely a different focus coming to a human services firm from a client services firm. You really get to see the impact and difference you’re making in people’s lives,” she explains.


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Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

When she’s not crunching numbers in the office, Shelly finds time to serve on a number of local community organizations including the Treasurer for Saratoga ArtsFest, the Board of Directors for the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, the Alumni Board of Directors for Leadership Saratoga, and the LeadingAge New York Audit Committee, a state lobby association for not-for-profit nursing homes. Through her experience with Leadership Saratoga and her time with the Chamber of Commerce, Shelly says she’s gained a lot of insight into Saratoga County. She says, “I love learning about the different challenges that the area faces. We’re a large county and there’s a wide breadth of issues that come before the Board.” Shelly says that lately, in an effort to get to know Chamber partners better, the Board has been traveling around and holding meetings at various locations such as Global Foundries, Schmaltz Brewery, and the Saratoga Springs City Center. One of Shelly’s favorite Chamber initiatives is Healthy Saratoga. Saratoga was recently named the healthiest county in New York State, and Shelly is doing her part to help

Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016 the area keep that title. Shelly and her Husband, Keith, live in the Fairways of Halfmoon with their 6-year-old Kindergartener, Ben, and pets Hara (a dog) and Martin (a cat). The family loves to participate in healthy activities and strives to set a good example for their son. Shelly and Keith are active triathletes and also take group fitness classes at Challenge By Choice in Schuylerville. Even little Ben gets in on the sports action – he’s slated to complete his first kids triathlon at the Saratoga YMCA in May! If there’s time in the schedule, the family also enjoys skiing at Gore Mountain and Shelly makes it a point to ride with the Skidmore community riding program as often as she can. With so many professional responsibilities, Shelly says her hobbies and home life keep her centered. She says, “I try to maintain a balance with everything – I also have an amazing support network.” Shelly continues, “I’m very lucky, my husband has my back every day.” Whether you encounter her in the boardroom, on the trails, or at an event around town, Shelly is hard to miss. She’ll be the one getting the job done, while making Saratoga a better place to live and work.


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Women of I nfluence Saratoga County’s 2013

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Jane Mastaitis By Megan Harrington

As the CFO of Saratoga Bridges, the 3rd largest non-profit human service agency in the county, Jane Mastaitis has a lot on her plate, but you won’t see her breaking a sweat (unless it’s during a race, of course). Jane’s nominator and the Executive Director of Saratoga Bridges, Valerie Muratori, says that throughout her tenure, “Jane has been able to balance the budget while keeping all employee jobs safe AND all of our programs running, despite major budget cuts in the millions.” That’s not an easy task, but Jane is clearly up for the challenge. Originally from Bradford, Pennsylvania, Jane graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and moved to the Saratoga area in 1990. She’s been at Saratoga Bridges since 1991 and while her title has changed, she says that her job has essentially remained the same. However one thing hasn’t remained static – over the past 25 years, the organization’s budget has grown from 6 million dollars to over 27 million dollars. And Jane’s contribution to the organization doesn’t end with the budget; she was also essential in the design and construction of Saratoga Bridges’ new silver level LEED certified Administrative Building. She says, “I was part of a team that worked from the beginning, with

Photos by MarkBolles.com

the architects, to the end, with the contractors. I became very involved in the environmental aspect of the new building.” Saratoga Bridges’ new home is extremely environmentally friendly and features a number of cost-saving initiatives including: a geothermal heating and air conditioning system, low V02 paint and carpets, low flow faucets and toilets, motion sensitive lights, and an abundance of natural lighting. One of the other hats that Jane wears is directly related to her other passion: running. In her 30’s, Jane became an avid runner and eventually a triathlete. And about 15 years ago, the title of race director was added to her resume. When it was in its second year, the Great Pumpkin Race, a 5k and 10k held to raise money for Saratoga Bridges, was in need

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of leadership. And as an avid runner, Jane was the perfect fit. She says, “I think that being a runner and a triathlete gives me the best insight for being the race director.” Over the past 15 years, Jane has increased the number of runners from 100 to 2,000 and the event is now one of Saratoga Bridges’ biggest fundraisers, bringing in $30,000 annually. And while she loves playing race director, she’s also happy to return to the office on Monday morning. “I like being race director for one day and a CFO for the other 364 days!” she says. In addition to the Great Pumpkin Race, Jane is involved in a number of other Saratoga Bridges fundraisers including a golf tournament, the annual White Party, Traver’s Day at the track, and Polka Fest. These fundraisers benefit programs that are often underfunded by the state. Jane is passionate about funding these programs, saying, “I like to make sure the people we care for get everything they need and have the best lives they can. And at the same time, I’m also very dedicated to taking care of the staff.” She continues, “There have been no layoffs since I’ve been CFO and we’re very proud of this.”

Jane is also a 2012 graduate of Leadership Saratoga, something she says, “has allowed me to become involved with other non-profits in the area.” Jane serves as the Board Development Chair for Saratoga PLAN and also volunteers for United Preservation Hall’s Shaken and Stirred Fundraiser. Jane’s athletic accomplishments extend far beyond her role as race director – she’s also an Ironman triathlete. The Ironman is comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile marathon. Yes, you read that correctly. Ironmen (or in this case, Ironwomen) run a full marathon after spending hours in the water and on the bike! As you can imagine, the training is not for the faint of heart. As Jane prepares for her 7th Lake Placid Ironman event this summer, she estimates her training volume to be close to 20 hours each week. Her coach, Kevin Crossman of T3 coaching, has her doing a combination of swimming, biking, and running workouts in preparation. When it comes to her training schedule, Jane says, “I like using a coach because I don’t have to think about whether I’m overtraining

Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016 or undertraining.” She also says that while she initially was a “half-marathon junkie,” triathlon training really suits her AAA personality. “I’m at my best when I’m multi-tasking,” she explains. When it comes to her introduction to the triathlon, Jane just might have her husband to thank. Jane met Steve through the local running club, Saratoga Stryders, while he was serving as secretary and she was the organization’s treasurer. Steve was an avid triathlete and encouraged Jane to branch out from running and consider multi-sports. However the two must have had more than athletics in common, because they’re now happily married and reside near Saratoga Lake. When they’re not prepping for their next race, the couple loves to hold dinner parties and entertain on their pontoon boat. Whether it’s crunching numbers for one of Saratoga County’s biggest employers, putting in countless hours of triathlon training, or whipping up a gourmet dinner, Jane’s work ethic and success make her a role model for all women in the community.


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Women of I nfluence

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Saratoga County’s 2013

Libby Coreno By Megan Harrington

As a Director at Carter Conboy, P.C. and founder of her own consulting service, The Silent Partner, you’d expect that Libby Coreno would have a lot on her plate. But what makes her even more impressive is the fact that she has a newborn son (barely a month old at the time of this writing) as well as a 4-½ year old daughter at home. She also finds time to serve as President of the Leadership Saratoga Alumni Board, President of the Saratoga County Bar Association, and is an active member of countless other community organizations. If you’re wondering what this woman’s secret is, you’re not alone. But if you ask Libby, she humbly demurs, saying, “I’m not sure I’m in the same league as the other nominees.” After spending some time with this impressive woman, we can attest that her recognition is well deserved. Libby was born in Glens Falls and after a brief spell in Cincinnati, she moved back upstate where she

Photos by MarkBolles.com

attended high school at Emma Willard. She earned her undergraduate’s degree from the University of Kentucky and then graduated from Albany Law School. As a young law student she held internships with various government agencies as well as the Schenectady District Attorney’s Office. She argued her first criminal case during law school (and won!) and this success eventually led her along the path to litigation work. “Storytelling was my favorite part learning what happened from the victim’s standpoint. It really started my interest in advocacy of people,” says Libby. She continues, “I view my job, no matter what I’m doing, as giving voice to clients who otherwise might not be able to tell their own stories.” After graduating from law school, Libby entered private practice and worked as a litigation associate at Jones Ferradino, focusing primarily on real property, contracts, and municipal matters. Libby recently moved her practice to Carter Conboy, P.C. in 2015, but despite these busy career moves, she continues to donate her time to pro bono work. Libby’s nominator, Stephanie Ferradino, an attorney at Tuczinski, Cavalier, and Gilchrist, P.C., highlights the breadth and depth of Libby’s work saying, “Ms. Coreno’s diverse experience includes zoning,


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planning and real property development; complex commercial and real estate transactions; land use and SEQRA actions; environmental law; municipal law; and litigation and appeals.” She continues, “Due to this varied experience, Libby is the rare attorney who handles transactional representation with the mind of a litigator – capable of anticipating problems before they materialize.” While she has expertise in many areas, these days Libby says her main focus is helping businesses navigate Saratoga County, primarily when it comes to real estate development. Libby says men often dominate this practice area, so she feels particularly proud to be involved. She explains, “I’m privileged to have been part of some of the biggest real estate projects in the region, but I’ve often been one of the only women at the table. Fortunately, things are changing and that’s exciting.” When she’s not hard at work behind her desk, Libby loves to teach and help others become their best selves. Libby is particularly active in the Lawyer’s Assistance Program for both the Saratoga County and New York State Bar Associations. She has recently advocated for a shift in focus from lawyers in crisis to a broader scope with an emphasis on preventative vs. reactive care. Libby explains, “The legal profession is so fraught with conflict. We take things home at night and

over time that can wear away at your resilience for the profession.” She says this is often especially true for women attorneys, so she helps them set boundaries, and go from striving to thriving. Libby is passionate about the work she does with the LAPs and attorney wellbeing because as she explains, “Lawyers have an incredible capability for advocating for others, but when it comes to advocating for themselves, it can be the hardest job in the world.” Her love of teaching doesn’t stop with the legal world; Libby also works as a professional mentor for women in business. She leads workshops on the importance of creativity and compassion in the workplace – specifically how women can incorporate these things in their workplaces and homes to make them more enjoyable places to be. One of the most exciting classes Libby teaches is “Business Intuition for Women,” a course that encourages women to listen to their instincts and be their own leaders. She says, “Mistakes, wrong turns, and course corrections make us tremendous business owners and leaders.” Libby continues, “That’s what I really want to emphasize – listen to your intuition, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” Libby is also an annual presenter for Leadership Saratoga, where she teaches participants how to become more mindful leaders. “We focus on the critical importance of

Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016 mindfulness in your every day life, slowing down, staying present, and focusing on curiosity, collaboration, and cooperation,” Libby explains. With such a busy professional life, Libby gives a lot of credit to her partner for allowing her to do all that she does. “My husband, Frank, is an incredibly supportive person,” she says. Libby, Frank, and their children reside in Stillwater and enjoy hiking, traveling, and generally being active. And when it comes to her personal wellness, Libby loves to bring her mindfulness to the yoga mat. She has studied with many teachers, but particularly enjoys yoga with Ann Saffi Biasetti Ph.D., saying, “Ann specifically, with her research and work, really speaks to the idea of respecting your process as an individual, honoring what’s happening in the moment.” Libby is so passionate about good health that her latest project is lobbying to open a holistic wellness center in Saratoga Spa State Park called COESA with the help of many friends and colleagues. With her dedication and drive, we bet it will only be a matter of time before the wellness center is a reality. Whether it’s serving as a mover and shaker in Saratoga’s legal sphere, giving back to her community and fellow lawyers, or setting a healthy example for her children, there’s no doubt that Libby Coreno is one to watch.


Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016

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Women of I nfluence Saratoga County’s 2013

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Christianne Smith By Megan Harrington

Whether it’s assisting companies with their marketing and branding efforts or helping people make healthier choices, Christianne Smith brings enthusiasm and passion to everything she does. Her impact on the community might be best summed up by her nominator, Kari Cushing, “If you live or work in Saratoga Springs, you probably know the name Christianne Smith. If you attend a fundraiser, community event, or a party, chances are, Christianne will be there lighting up the room with her huge, beautiful smile and her genuine desire to help.” With an endorsement like that, you might be wondering if it’s all true, but if you spend an hour with Christianne, you’ll find that she’s one of the most genuine and accomplished women in the region. Christianne is no stranger to the area; she grew up in nearby Burnt Hills and attended Alfred University where she earned her BFA in graphic design. Shortly after college, she worked as a senior designer for Chermayeff and Geismar in Manhattan, where she developed identity programs and collateral materials for an impressive resume of clients including Mobil Oil, the New York Public Library, Lincoln Center Programs, the

Photos by MarkBolles.com

Alvin Ailey Dance Company, and more. She eventually moved on to serve as the senior designer and art director at Fassino Design in Boston where she managed a number of award-winning programs for corporations, universities, and medical centers. And then in 2001, she returned to her upstate roots and established her own firm, Designsmith Studio. Christianne says that at the beginning, she focused primarily on print and web design, but over the past few years she’s been able to branch out and offer clients social marketing, strategic planning, and market positioning. Another aspect of her professional life is teaching. “It’s another passion of mine,” Christianne explains. “I teach sporadically now, but I love it when I do.” Christianne says that she enjoys bringing a certain level of practicality and real life experience to the classroom. She says, “I had a professor in college who owned a business and

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also taught part time. I always thought, ‘When I get older, I want to be that guy.’ ” Previously, Christianne taught at the Massachusetts College of Art, but these days you can find her at the College of St. Rose, leading courses in graphic design, typography, and logo development. In addition to owning her own business and heading up college classrooms, Christianne finds a way to dedicate a significant amount of time to giving back to the community. She is a 2010 Leadership Saratoga graduate as well as a founding mother of SaratogaArtsFest, where she served on the Board of Directors for nearly 10 years. She has served on the Board of Directors for Wellspring (formerly DVRC), Saratoga Arts, and is currently on the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Foundation Board for Saratoga Bridges. Christianne is on numerous committees including Junior League, Mardi Gras, The White Party, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Center for the Family, Yaddo, Capital Region for a Creative Economy, Executive Mentor for Young Professionals Network/ Tech Valley, The Stakeholders, Civic Engagement Counsel, and has co-chaired the American Cancer Society’s Gala of Hope for the past 3 years.

While her volunteer interests are wide-ranging, Christianne says that the arts organizations hold a special place in her heart. She says, “My true love is creating an environment where arts are accessible to all. That’s always been important to me because we have such amazing artists in Saratoga County. Given the chance, we can really learn from them and encourage them.” Christianne is also passionate about her role on the Chamber’s Board of Directors. She says, “Serving on the Chamber Board is fulfilling because it encapsulates so many significant and varying topics that are important to our community rather than just one specific issue. I really love the healthy living aspect of working with the Chamber, too.” In fact, her love of health and wellness led to her second business, Clean Culture. By providing information and access to non-toxic health, beauty, and cleaning products, Christianne says, “I hope to help people make healthier choices. For me, it’s not about making money, it’s about helping the community be happier, healthier, and live longer.” She started her second business after struggling with perpetual headaches. “I’ve had bad headaches throughout my life and a few years ago, I went through all sorts of testing,” she says. The tests came back normal,

Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016 but her doctor suggested that she try eliminating toxins. She says, “I had no idea what that meant, so I started to do research and realized it’s this untapped world that I didn’t know anything about.” Christianne researched cleaner, healthier products and now sells her favorites through her company, Clean Culture. Although admittedly, this business is something she never predicted. “I said I’d never be in direct sales. I never thought it would be for me, but I’ve found that it’s another way to help others,” she says. And best of all, her headaches are long gone. At the end of every busy day, Christianne enjoys relaxing with her two rescue pups – Tucker, a shitzu, and Theo, a schnauzer-yorkie mix. “My dogs are my children,” she jokes. “And my loves are my friends and my family.” Of her parents she says, “They’re great role models and I’m so blessed.” Christianne is also close to her brother, his wife, and their two children. “My brother and I are extremely close and I’m a godparent to my 9-year-old nephew. It’s been the coolest title in the world. My nephew and niece mean the world to me,” she says. Whether it’s impressing clients or making Saratoga a healthier, happier place to live, there’s no doubt that Christianne is one of the area’s most remarkable women.


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Gayle LaSalle By Megan Harrington

As the Executive Assistant to Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Gayle LaSalle spends her days assisting one of the city’s most influential women, but Gayle is also a powerhouse in her own right. In addition to her work for the city, Gayle is a published author, an adjunct professor at Empire State College, and the owner of a consulting/speaking business. And if you ask her social circle, she’s also one of the best friends a woman could have. After graduating from Brockport College, Gayle relocated to the Capital District in the mid1970’s, and eventually earned her Masters in Education from SUNY Albany. She worked as an addictions counselor and a child welfare worker for over two decades and says, “No matter what I do, I end up going back to training and education.” Her love of teaching led her to a position at Empire State College, where her current courses focus on counseling theory and ethics. Although she says, “If it has to do with humans and development, I’ve probably taught it!” And for the past fifteen

Photos by MarkBolles.com

years, she’s run a successful consulting, speaking, and coaching business. Gayle says, “I think consulting and speaking have always been my passion, but for many years I was a single parent, and didn’t think I could take the time to make it [the business] work full time, so I just always kept playing with it on the side.” When it comes to motivational speaking, Gayle draws heavily on personal setbacks and triumphs. While Gayle was in high school, her mother struggled with alcoholism, but fortunately during this tough time, Gayle had the opportunity to become closer to her aunt. She says, “I began attending college near my aunt and that was a blessing. If I couldn’t get home for the weekend, I went there for dinner and stayed over night.” She continues, “My tante [the Yiddish and French word for aunt] had this amazing way of giving advice where you don’t know you’re getting it.” As an adult, Gayle realized she often shared this same wisdom with her clients and so decided to write down her aunt’s teachings and published Pearls from my Tante in 2009. Gayle describes her relationship with her aunt as a defining period in her life and one that she is incredibly thankful for. She says, “I knew that I could either spend a lot of time being angry


Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016 that my mother wasn’t what I hoped, or I could choose to be grateful for the relationship with my aunt. I chose to learn from her, I chose to embrace that relationship.” These days, Gayle relies on that experience to motivate others. She says, “My focus is helping people realize they have choices – the idea that no matter what has happened to us in our lives, ultimately we have a choice from today on.” When it comes to choosing her own happiness, Gayle has had plenty of practice. Tragically, just weeks before she was to marry the love of her life, her fiancé died in car crash. The experience almost broke her and she says it took an intervention from her daughter to help make a change. Gayle says, “After the accident, I was having lunch with my daughter and she said to me, ‘Mom, you can have gratitude for something you never thought you’d have or you can be angry for the rest of your life – it’s up to you.’ “ Gayle says that this truly was a defining moment in her life and says, “After a few days it really started to sink in that she was right. I did have a choice. I was fortunate to have someone in my life to love me and change the way I saw myself.” This realization allowed her to heal,

Women of I nfluence Saratoga County’s 2013

move on, and ultimately empower others to do the same. Gayle’s speaking audiences are varied, but she is especially passionate about working with at-risk youth and women. “It’s really important for me to make an impact in my public speaking – even if it’s not the most financially lucrative,” she explains. Between her consulting work and time in the classroom, Gayle also serves as the Mayor’s right-hand woman. Before meeting Joanne, Gayle was a complete political novice, but was looking for a way to get involved and feel more connected to her city. She explains, “One day I approached Joanne and just asked what I could to do to help out.” She continues, “I helped Joanne on her first campaign and when she won, we decided that being part of her administration would be beneficial for both of us.” When it comes to community involvement, Gayle is an active member of the Saratoga Trunkettes and says, “Anything that Natalie Sillery does to raise money, I help out with.” But her relationship with the Trunkettes extends beyond volunteering; Gayle says that her fellow Trunkettes are also her nearest and dearest friends.

“My definition of success has changed throughout my life. Now what I am most proud of is the group of women that I’ve cultivated around me. I have fabulous, wonderful friends,” she says. And while younger women often gravitate toward friends who are just like them, Gayle says that things are more relaxed these days. “Some of us have husbands or live-in boyfriends, some of us are single – we’re at an age now where it doesn’t really matter any more, we’re just friends.” In addition to her professional accomplishments and active personal life, Gayle also cherishes the relationship she has with her daughter, son-inlaw, and two young granddaughters. And she says her rescue Pomeranian, Maestro, serves as the most loyal of companions. As her dear friend and nominator Amy Raimo attests, “Gayle is helping to shape the future of our city and county, and is actively enriching our community.” Whether it’s empowering others to make positive changes in their lives, helping the Mayor run the great city of Saratoga Springs, or just bringing a smile to the face of her friends and loved ones, Gayle LaSalle is truly one of the area’s greatest influencers.

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Miyo Shirakura Reed and

Laura O’Brien

By Megan Harrington Photos by MarkBolles.com and Deberah Neary While a joint Woman of Influence nomination is a bit unusual, as soon as you meet Miyo Shirakura Reed and Laura O’Brien, you’ll know why these two ladies belong together. The duo co-teaches pre-Kindergarten at St. Paul’s Christian Childhood Center and have touched the lives of countless area children throughout their decade in the classroom. One of the pair’s nominators, Senia Fleming, says it best, “It was impossible to nominate one without the other since they work so greatly as a team. I hope you choose to honor this typically underappreciated profession and these two amazing educators – two women who are most certainly shaping the future of Saratoga County.” Perhaps one of the reasons the pair works so well together is the different strengths they bring to the table. On paper, Miyo and Laura are unalike, but their love of teaching children is shared. Miyo, originally from Japan, met her husband, Dave, overseas and when it came time to relocate the family in 2001, Miyo knew the Spa City would be their next home. “I fell in love with the area,” she says. “When I visited Saratoga for the first time, it was clear immediately that a town so wonderful and cheerful as this was right for my family.” Miyo and Dave have two children: 20-year-old Seina, a student at The Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, and 15-year-old Alan, a sophomore at Saratoga Springs High School. When their youngest

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was in Pre-K at St. Luke’s, Miyo began volunteering in the class, which happened to be taught by Laura. Laura noticed how helpful she was and before long, Miyo was a permanent fixture at the school. Laura says, “When Miyo first started volunteering for her son’s class, I noticed that she was somewhat of a mind reader. I never had to ask for help – she always anticipated what was next and what needed to be done.” Miyo’s presence at St. Luke’s was clearly beneficial to the students, but it also allowed her to grow personally. Miyo admits that when she first arrived in the U.S., she didn’t drive a car and her English was a bit rusty. These days, she’s perfectly fluent and enmeshed in the Saratoga community. When she’s not working, Miyo and her family enjoy exploring the city and getting outdoors to hike, bike, and play tennis. In contrast to Miyo’s international background, Laura has deep roots in the area. After spending her childhood in Greenwich, Laura earned her teaching degree from the College of St. Rose, and began teaching kindergarten in the Albany area. After the birth of her first child, Laura took a step back from

Women of I nfluence Saratoga County’s 2013

full-time work, but soon realized how much she missed teaching. She applied for a part time position at St. Luke’s in September 2000 and 15 years later she’s still in love with her job. Laura and her husband, John, live in nearby Easton and are the parents to 19-year-old Alexandra, 17-yearold Danielle, and 14-year-old Christian (and all graduates of St. Luke’s pre-K program). And even though her kids are now a bit older, Laura says, “Life doesn’t slow down – they still need me.” Luckily her schedule at St. Luke’s allows her to be there for them and Laura says, “This job has been such a blessing, it was really a perfect situation for me.” Teaching over a dozen pre-K students and being the mom to three teenagers takes up most of Laura’s day, but she also manages to work part-time at the Easton Library as well as spend time outside being active. Four-year-olds may be a little young for learning time management skills, but Laura and Miyo undoubtedly offer a great example. In their job, there’s a lot of prep work that must be done in advance and as Laura explains, “With this age group, if you don’t have

everything set to go, it’s tough.” Class is in session Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the duo arrives at least 30 minutes early to prepare and set-up for the day. The first hour is “playful learning,” which may include building with Legos or blocks. And even though it looks like playing, the teachers are hard at work helping their young charges identify colors, count, and problem solve. “Everything the children are doing at this age is learning – sometimes you have to remind parents of this,” Laura says. Next comes “circle time,” when Laura and Miyo lead their group of 14 students in a good morning song and various other activities. Depending on the day, the students might focus on the weather, the calendar, shapes, letters, colors, or music. After finishing up with a story, it’s snack time for the hungry little ones. And because St. Luke’s pre-K teaches Christian values, there’s time in each day for religion. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, the children hear a bible story and complete a related craft. And on Wednesdays, they visit the chapel for time with the

29 church’s pastor. When it’s time to burn off some energy, Laura says, “We end our day with gross motor time.” This often means time on the playground or in the fellowship hall with bikes and balls. It’s a jam-packed day, but Miyo and Laura are always going above and beyond. They take the kids on monthly field trips to visit adopted Grandmas and Grandpas at the Home of the Good Shepherd and also hold holiday parties and an annual play. Their day requires a lot of energy and teamwork, but luckily this pair has figured out how to rely on each other. “I couldn’t do what I do without Miyo – she brings her artistic and technological skills to the table,” Laura says. And likewise, Miyo gives Laura credit for taking on the lion’s share of planning and organization. “Laura is like a conductor of the orchestra,” she says. Even after 10 years together in the classroom, the duo’s joy for teaching is apparent. “I just really love the kids, they make me laugh,” says Miyo. Laura agrees, “We have so many great families that we’ve worked with throughout the years. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve stayed here as long as we have.”


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Women of Influence Saratoga County’s 2013

Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016


Week of May 20 – May 26, 2016

Women of I nfluence Saratoga County’s 2013

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