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Women of the West Valley

Four women share their own female role models and words of advice for today’s young women

Article by Susan Lanier-Graham

Photography by Christine Andert—Picture Lady Photography LLC

Originally published in North Peoria Lifestyle

Mother’s Day is a time to reflect on the women in our lives and our roles in the lives of other women. Many women struggle with the need to balance home, family, work, fitness, fun and spirituality. Nurturing each other is a big part of the process, and having a community that supports everyone is essential.

We recently sat down with four women in our North Peoria community to chat with them about their own challenges, inspirations and advice for the youngest generation of women.

Suzanne DeStefano

Headmaster of Great Hearts Archway Classical Academy Glendale (GreatHeartsAmerica.org)

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Northern California and moved to Arizona fourteen years ago. I have been married for 21 years, and we have three teenagers and two dogs. My great-grandfather immigrated from Switzerland to Jerome during the Copper Rush. When I was a child, we used to vacation in his house that precariously dangled off a Jerome cliff.

Who are important women in your life?

All the teachers at my school inspire me as they work so selflessly and passionately to nurture and teach their students. My daughter also inspires me. I want her to be empowered to follow her dreams and goals, and I want to be an example for her. 

What do you do for fun?

I love cooking big Italian feasts for family and friends. My children laugh at me because I sing to my pasta sauce when I make it. I love painting rocks and leaving them on trails for others to find; I like to imagine that it makes people happy.

What is one piece of advice you would give to today’s young girls?

I would give the same advice to boys and girls—a virtuous life is a happy life. I’m five feet tall, wear glasses, and have one eye that works. I’m silly, clumsy, and rather quiet. And none of that matters. What matters, what defines a person is her integrity, her passion, her relationships, and how much love she shares with the world.

Jane Amator

Owner/Director of YogaSix Lake Pleasant (YogaSix.com/location/lake-pleasant)

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in the small town of Cottage Grove, Oregon and moved with my family first to Globe and then to Safford, AZ. My father was ill, so my mom handled the kids and ran her own business. I majored in Justice Studies at ASU and eventually worked in medical malpractice

Who are important women in your life?

My mother demonstrated strength and perseverance in everything she did in life. She taught me that no matter who you are or what experiences you’re faced with, you make the best of things.

Why did you start YogaSix?

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I pulled from my mother’s strength, endurance and faith to recover. I found myself reevaluating my career path. YogaSix Lake Pleasant offers yoga that is accessible to everyone. Everyone should find time to take care of themselves.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy spending time with my family, working in my garden, walking the dogs, hiking and running. I believe in directing my energy toward everything positive and working hard for what will bring good to all.

Caitlin Witte

Owner, Your Health Coverage Concierge and works with USHealth Group (USHAgent.com/caitlinwitte)

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in New York and have been in Arizona for 13 years. I have two children, Aiden (10) and Presley (4). I lost both of my parents in 2020 (not COVID-related) and since then, being a single mom with two children has given me a sense of urgency and drive to make a difference.

Who are important women in your life?

My mother shaped who I am as a woman and a mother. She taught me about forgiveness and compassion. She believed that no matter the situation, the challenge or the obstacle, it is better to face it head-on and be strong and honest in your responses.

My younger sister Michaela has been my biggest supporter and is a huge part of my success.

What made you choose insurance?

Going through the loss of my parents, seeing the impact of medical bills, health and life insurance, and how people are affected by losing loved ones, I decided I was meant for greater things. I want to help others find the right coverage and protection for themselves and their families. My unfortunate series of events (furloughed in March 2020, lost my mom in April, was homeschooling the kids and lost my dad in October 2020) made me passionate about helping others.

What do you do for fun?

We are a super active family and spend most of our time outdoors hiking or at the lake. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to today’s young girls?

It is how you react in any situation that will define you. Life is going to throw you unexpected curveballs. Learn from them and use them as a tool to grow stronger.

Betty A. Hinderks Davis, MD, FAAD, FACMS

Dermatologist and Dermatologic Micrographic Surgeon, Medical Director Regency Skin Institute PLLC (RegencySpecialties.com)

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in the small Missouri town of Lathrop, near Kansas City. I completed undergrad, medical school and residency at the University of Missouri-Columbia, followed by a Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery Fellowship in Birmingham, AL. My husband Justin, an attorney, and I moved to Arizona in 2005. We have a 13-year-old daughter, Riley, and three Goldendoodles—Penelope, Beckham and Lego.

Who are important women in your life?

Dr. Ann Havey was one of my teachers in medical school. She did everything with a joyous heart. She could influence a room with positive, well-thought-out actions. She has been a role model for me in how to be a patient-centric physician.

My sister and mother, both elementary teachers, were also influential and led by example. They taught me the joy of loving what you do and how to change the lens of one's vision to make lemonade out of lemons.

What do you do for fun?

I compete in Latin ballroom dance. My dance partner is Damir Karamam at Eurorhythm Dance Studio in Scottsdale.

Outside of dance, I’m busy with family. My daughter plays soccer with Phoenix Rising Arizona West, so her practices, games and tournaments fill our free time. We are also hikers. We are so lucky to have so many trails and places to hike in Peoria.

What is one piece of advice you would give to today’s young girls?

Luck is something you make for yourself. Be ready to tackle opportunities as they come. Also, how we treat others does define us. Be kind and helpful whether it is holding a door at the grocery store or writing a letter of recommendation. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.

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