With the holidays past, spring break on tap and summer still a few months away, March is a great time to take stock of how your child’s school year has gone and think about what lies ahead. It’s also a great time for kids to reflect on where their interests lie— academic and otherwise—and to imagine what they might want to do as adults. To give you some ideas, we asked five local professionals to share their own reflections on what they do. Here is what they said.

Ann Valentino

Elementary School Teacher

Valentino says she loves teaching because she finds working with children to be rewarding and filled with great purpose. She also loves that her students constantly surprise her—every day is different. Valentino values the connections she makes with her students. Her preparation for her career has included a bachelor of science in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational administration. She is a national board certified teacher. Valentino says teachers that are successful are creative, dedicated, inspirational, trustworthy, resilient, patient, caring, forgiving, enthusiastic, adaptable, organized, engaging and kind.

Jill Whiteside Schavrda

Licensed Realtor

Schavrda’s job is to help her clients— whether they are first-time homebuyers, investors or sellers of a childhood home—to achieve their goals. She loves the process of helping people find financial success, a new home they love, or relief and closure. Schavrda has a background in real estate, marketing, accounting and appraisal, along with photography and design. She also takes continuing education classes. She believes success in this job requires listening carefully and putting clients’ needs first. Referrals mean her clients are happy, which keeps her business thriving and makes her feel good, too.

Vivian Iskander Porter

Public Health Advisor

Porter works for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Her job is to help kids get access to vaccines through a federal immunization program, which she finds both challenging and rewarding. Porter says she likes public service and serving large populations. She studied civil engineering in college and has a master’s degree in public health. She believes critical thinking skills are very important to be successful in her job. That means she is constantly thinking about her program’s goals and whether there are better ways to accomplish them. Flexibility, patience and perseverance are Important too.

Stephen Robirds

Orthodontic Specialist

Orthodontics is a  tpe of dentistry that deals with correcting or preventing irregularities in the teeth. Robirds says it’s special to be able to help children and adults when they have been embarrassed by their smile or unable to chew properly. Robirds has a doctor of dental surgery degree and a certificate in orthodontics. He believes that the ability to learn is fundamental to success in his field. Orthodontics is a branch of medicine that’s constantly improving and evolving, which means he must continually be learning in order to give patients the best treatment possible.

James Green

Outreach Program


Green’s job involves supporting people in recovery and helping kids and young adults with mental health challenges. He loves providing service to others. James has a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration and has experience working for the Texas Department of Health. He currently works for UT Austin. To succeed in this job, Green says it’s important to have a passion for public health promotion, to be flexible and to understand how to pull together the right government agencies, resources and people required to get the job done.


Margaret Nicklas is an Austin-based freelance journalist, writer and mom who covers public affairs, public health and the well-being of children 

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