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DHS\’ Brittan is a breath of fresh air

By December 30, 2010

Enterprise staff writer

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She\’s a new face on the bench. A new voice in the basketball program. An inspiration to those around her.

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By all accounts, she\’s a breath of fresh air — helping students and athletes reach their full potential.

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Newcomer Hilary Brittan, in short, has made a big splash in her first year at Davis High School.

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“She\’s invaluable,” says Lady Blue Devil coach Jeff Christian, who is thanking his lucky stars to have picked up Brittan as his assistant varsity coach. “Every player looks to her as a role model. The girls stop by her class, text her, give her hugs.

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“She tutors the kids before school, after lunch. … She really wants to make a difference in the lives of young adults. The Davis community is fortunate to have her.”

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And to think Brittan — a Napa native who now lives in Sacramento — was headed for a career in law. Whew.

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A history major with a minor in ethnic studies at Oregon State (the school at which her parents met), Brittan wanted to be an attorney. Things changed quickly …

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“(Law aspirations were) all over for me the first time I substitute-taught,” Brittan recalls. “I immediately realized that (teaching) was where I was supposed to be.”

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At least Brittan came by the profession honestly: Mom Christina is a lifelong educator who supplied a lion\’s share of the influence in daughter Hilary\’s love of teaching.

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Brittan\’s interest in kids, her passion for history and basketball — and a wicked 90-minute commute between her new home and teaching gig at Napa High — created the perfect storm that landed her at DHS.

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“I already knew of Davis High\’s reputation for excellence,” explains Brittan, whose aunt and uncle, Kent and Deborah, have been longtime residents of this community. “(The district\’s) policy of full inclusion helped one of my cousins, Lisa Brittan, who has cerebral palsy, achieve her dream of attending university to become a teacher herself.

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“That level of commitment to student achievement was a huge factor in why I wanted to become part of this community of educators.”

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Plus, spending three hours a day in the car? Brittan was wasting time. The kids needed her.

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“I feel blessed to have her as a role model for all the Lady Blue Devils,” Christian continues. “Hilary is vital to the program.”

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So, how did she gravitate to basketball in her first year at Davis?

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As a player at Vintage High (Class of 1999), Brittan learned the game. She learned it so well that, before she left for Oregon, she was coaching the sport in Napa recreation programs. She also was officiating in youth and adult basketball leagues.

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But that hardcourt passion simmered while at OSU and teaching at Napa High. It wasn\’t until Davis Athletic Director Dennis Foster saw a perfect marriage between Brittan and the Lady Blue Devils that the first-year Blue Devil returned to her sport.

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“Karen Foster (now junior varsity coach) has been the backbone of our program. Kalyca Seabrook (the freshman coach) had been working in the program for two weeks — (each were) ready for new challenges,” Christian explained. “Dennis mentioned (Brittan) to me … and the rest is history.”

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Which has been pleasing for all concerned. The Devils are off to a 9-4 start — winning more games already this season than all of last year (8-19).

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“The ladies on our team are incredible young women who play with heart and tenacity,” Brittan observed. “I am so proud to be their coach. My goal is to provide them with a positive female role model that they can rely on and respect.”

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Mission accomplished.

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“To be honest, I don\’t know how she does it all the time,” Christian adds, noting that Brittan\’s every second seems to be dedicated to helping someone.

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Just watch the players. Not just in the record, but in the attitude, the camaraderie, the all-out court hustle. Brittan is the difference Christian talks of.

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“It\’s good to have a woman\’s support,” Devil senior standout Khaliya Wilkins believes. “She keeps stuff a lot more positive. She\’s just a big help. (She) means more support for me. It\’s great to able to go to her and talk.”

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Hillary pooh-poohs the praise.

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“Sometimes people ask me why I chose to become a teacher and I tell them it\’s actually a selfish reason — the intrinsic value you get from being an educator is beyond the worth of a paycheck.”

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Notes: Mom and Hilary used to spend summers together, touring historical sites, once traveling across the nation, seeing Civil War battlefields and the great American wonders like Arches National Park, Thomas Jefferson\’s Monticello home and Bar Harbor, Maine. “It was these kinds of moments that made history come alive for me,” she remembers. … Dad Robert Brittan retired as the winemaker at Stag\’s Leap Winery in the Napa Valley. He now runs his own vineyard in McMinnville, Ore. Sister Chelsea is the viticulturist for William Valley Vineyards in Oregon.

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— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com.

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