2019 Speaker Biographies
Dawn Cogan, St. Mark Youth Enrichment
St. Mark Youth Enrichment provides innovative programs and services that cultivate the educational and social-emotional growth of youth and families in the greater Dubuque region. Dawn is passionate about creating environments that foster authenticity, trust, creativity, excellence, and accountability in a manner that emanates from within who we are as individuals and as an organization.
Sandra Day, Council Bluffs Community School District
Sandra Day is the 21st CCLC Program Director for Council Bluffs Community School District which has seven elementary, two middle, and two high school sites. Prior to her work in Iowa, Sandra was a classroom teacher and K-12 administrator for Omaha Public Schools.
Chad Driscoll, Volunteer Iowa
Chad works for Volunteer Iowa as a Program Officer. He has been with Volunteer Iowa since 2012 providing support, training and technical assistance, and program development to National Service programs and mentoring programs across the state of Iowa along with supporting National Service efforts during times of disaster. Before joining the Commission, he was an AmeriCorps Program Director and is a proud AmeriCorps Alum, both with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Davenport, Iowa. Chad has been involved in local and national AmeriCorps Alums activities since he served as a member. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Business Management and Psychology from St. Ambrose University in 2008.
Joanna Faber, Teacher, Lecturer, and Author
Joanna Faber grew up in the Long Island home/laboratory of internationally acclaimed, best-selling author and parent educator Adele Faber. Her father was a leading educator and director of innovative guidance programs in the New York City Public Schools. She taught elementary school in West Harlem while completing post-graduate work in math and science at the City College of New York. During this time her bilingual, special education students published books of poetry and stories, wrote and performed plays, started a school newspaper, and won top honors in the district-wide science fair two years in a row. Faber contributed heavily to her mother’s most recent award winning book, How To Talk So Kids Can Learn – at Home and in School, with her frontline experience in the classroom, and recently contributed a new section titled The Next Generation to the 30th anniversary edition of How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Her own best-selling book, entitled How To Talk So LITTLE Kids Will Listen was released by Simon and Schuster in January of 2017.
Will Fett, Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
Will Fett is the executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. He is a former middle and high school teacher and has led the agriculture literacy expansion efforts in Iowa since 2014. He also serves as the president of the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization.
Carly Gates, Council Bluffs Community School District
Carly Gates is currently serving as the Coordinator of Summer Learning for the Council Bluffs Community School District. Prior to this role, she worked as an elementary teacher, a middle school Language Arts teacher, and an instructional coach for the district.
Cassie Gerst, Burlington Community School District
Cassie Gerst is the Outreach and Grant Coordinator for Burlington Community School District. She has her Masters in Youth Development and has been working in the field of out-of-school time programming since 2005. She has spent 13 years in the field of youth mentoring, has been an executive director of a 501(c)3 agency in California, and has spent the past four years at BCSD. As the 21CCLC Grant Director, Cassie has helped grow the program from three Burlington schools to seven.
Cindy Hall, Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
Cindy Hall is the education program manager for the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. She has been involved with informal education efforts and Agriculture in the Classroom efforts for more than 12 years. She is active on the Iowa History Advisory Council and the science leadership team led by the Iowa Department of Education.
Nicole Hanson, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4H Youth Development
Nicole Hanson is the Iowa 4-H Clover Kids (K-3) Specialist. In this position, Nicole provides leadership in the statewide Clover Kids program, including partnership development, educational product development, and professional development for staff and volunteers implementing K-3 curricula and hands-on kits. Nicole joined the Iowa 4-H program with over 10 years of experience coordinating out-of-school time programs. She graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in child, adult, and family services.
Anna Hartmann, Council Bluffs Public Library
Anna Hartmann has been the Youth Services Manager at the Council Bluffs Public Library for two years and was the Teen Services Manager for the previous eight years. She has worked as a partner with the 21st Century Grant to serve students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Anna earned her Master of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois and also has a Master of Arts in Mass Communication and Media Arts from Southern Illinois University.
Jeff Jackson, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Dallas County
Jeff Jackson serves as the Executive Director for ISU Extension and Outreach Dallas County. Jeff has been working in Youth Development and Programming for over 17 years. Jeff has helped start Community Youth Centers, After School Safe House Programs, worked with youth in the Juvenile Justice System, worked in Prevention, and served in Mental Health. Jeff has spoken/presented all over the country speaking on Youth in Culture, Vibrant Youth Programs, Youth and Mental Health, Successful Partnerships, Motivation, and Program Design. Jeff has been blessed to lead some of the largest, most vibrant youth programs in Michigan and Iowa. He has completed a Micro-Master’s from the University of Michigan in Leading Educational Innovation and is finishing his Master’s Degree in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University.
Vic Jaras, Iowa Department of Education
Vic Jaras is a Community Education and Service-Learning Consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. He heads the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21CCLC) federal grant program in the state for before and after school programming that targets students in need. 21CCLC funding provides about six million dollars in funding for afterschool in Iowa. These centers provide a safe environment for children to overcome achievement gaps and become engaged in learning. Prior to his work at the Iowa Department of Education, Vic developed innovative afterschool and tutoring programs in Michigan, created a technology curriculum that was used by the Michigan Department of Education for state technology standards, and taught courses for Delta College, Great Lakes College, Davenport University, Saginaw Valley State University, and Miller College.
Lyn Jenkins, Every Step
Lyn Jenkins is the Community Health 5-2-1-0 Coordinator for Central Iowa. She has created curriculum and led and coordinated a variety of wellness activities with children and families. Her work with 5-2-1-0 focuses on providing professional development for early care and education professionals to create healthy, engaging environments and practices to meet program and community needs.
David McConnell, Foundations, Inc.
David McConnell is an Education Specialist, supporting You for Youth (Y4Y). David provides training, technical assistance, and out-of-school time (OST) resources for afterschool and summer programs. David has five years of experience in OST learning, primarily focused on student activities and youth programming. Prior to coming to Foundations, David worked in educational publishing at Macmillan Learning; his work at Macmillan involved developing training materials for educational software and providing in-person and online trainings for teachers and administrators. David holds a B.A. in English with a minor in Education from Rowan University, as well as a M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from Georgia Southern University.
Monique McDowell, Foundations, Inc.
Monique McDowell serves as Lead Education Specialist for Foundations’ subcontractor role with the U.S. Department of Education’s You for Youth (Y4Y) online professional development web portal. She conducts trainings nationwide to help OST practitioners better understand and utilize the support that the site offers. In addition to her work at Foundations, Inc., Monique is an Educational Consultant, was an Adjunct Professor, and served as the Chairperson for the Montefiore Medical Center Community Advisory Board as well as served on several National Advisory Committees. She has extensive experience in managing, directing and providing oversight for elementary and secondary education programs, as well as adult education programs. Monique earned a Certificate from the Emerging Leader Development Program at the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University, a Master of Science degree from Audrey Cohen College and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of New Rochelle.
Beth McGorry, St. Mark Youth Enrichment
St. Mark Youth Enrichment provides innovative programs and services that cultivate the educational and social-emotional growth of youth and families in the greater Dubuque region. Beth is passionate about sharing the voices of the children she serves and making sure their stories are heard.
Emily Miller, EyesOpenIowa
Emily Miller is the Director of Training at EyesOpenlowa, overseeing the Eyes Open Academy and Sexual Health Educator Certification Program. She trains educators, other professionals, parents and caregivers, and advocates of all ages on a wide variety of topics and curricula. She also travels across the country training sexual health educators and trainers on sex education best practices and skill development. Emily is a nationally certified trainer of trainers in a wide variety of evidence-based and evidence-informed sex education curricula. As a nationally certified trainer, Emily has completed a rigorous credentialing process for a variety of popular curricula. Emily received her Bachelors in psychology from Central College and is currently working on her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Drake University.
Sara Nelson, Iowa State University for Extension & Outreach
Sara Nelson is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Iowa State University for Extension & Outreach and the School of Education. In this position, Sara works to advance STEM and Literacy Education through research, teaching and curriculum development for K-5 youth. Her prior experience includes teaching first and third grade and working as an educator at the Science Center of Iowa. She holds a PhD with a literacy education focus, a MS with a science education focus and a BA in Elementary Education.
Malisa Rader, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Malisa Rader is a Human Sciences Specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has a BS in early childhood education and a Master’s in Early Childhood Administration. She is a former at-risk preschool teacher, child development specialist, and early childhood director. She was at the ISU Child Development Laboratory School for nine years. Current interests also include social justice issues, inclusion, anti-bias and equity. She is most at home exchanging ideas with early childhood professionals where you will frequently hear her say, “these are my people.”
Ashely Rutan, Country House Residence
Ashley Rutan is a Nebraska native working in Council Bluffs at Country House Residence. Country House Residence is an assisted living community serving those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Working as the programming director, Ashley plans activities focused on physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual wellness.
Barb Schmitz, Oelwein Community School District
Barb Schmitz is the 21st Century Director for the Oelwein Community School District. Barb is also the Elementary School Counselor and has worked in the Oelwein District for 21 years as a counselor.
Melanie Seier, St. Mark Youth Enrichment
St. Mark Youth Enrichment provides innovative programs and services that cultivate the educational and social-emotional growth of youth and families in the greater Dubuque region. Melanie is passionate about teaching families how to understand their children’s big feelings so that they can learn the life skills needed to be their best selves.
Mary Sheka, Iowa Mentoring Partnership
Mary Sheka has worked with schools and youth serving agencies in Iowa for 30 years in a variety of roles. She is currently the director of the Iowa Mentoring Partnership, the certifying body for high quality youth mentoring programs across the state, and advocates for issues affecting youth on the state and federal level.
Bobbie Jo Sheridan, Des Moines Public Schools
Bobbie Jo Sheridan is the Hiring and Training Specialist for Des Moines Public Schools. In her role, she supports quality initiatives around hiring, training and program support for the district’s OST programs. Ms. Sheridan is passionate about Social Emotional Learning and how to provide students with tools to be successful at all stages of their lives. She holds her Social Work License in Iowa and her National Administrator Credential from NECPA. Ms. Sheridan received her undergraduate degree in Social Work from the University of Northern Iowa and her Masters in Health Education and Promotion from Walden University.
Theresa Slaughter, Central Iowa OST Enrichment Coach
Theresa Slaughter is an OST Enrichment Coach serving after school and summer programs in the Des Moines area. She is passionate about working and supporting youth to be their best. Theresa has a Masters in Business Leadership/Management along with a Teacher’s Certification in Secondary Education. In the short version of her journey to becoming an OST Enrichment coach, she has over 20 years working in various learning environments ranging from the juvenile justice system to classroom teacher and everything in between.
Kevin Sorice, Kids Read Now
Kevin Sorice, MBA is the National Outreach Director for Kids Read Now. His career of 30+ years includes client relations, higher education, teaching, and non-profit service. “We can start to solve problems if we look at the crux of the issue and not be afraid to break out of the box of complacency.” Mr. Sorice is an avid bocce player, volunteer for several nonprofit organizations, married to wife Kris and has a daughter, Tori, who is attending PA school at Marietta College.
Kurt Wagner, Author
Kurt Wagner is a children’s book author, father of four, and husband living in Bellevue, Iowa. His books center on family traditions and fun that his family has shared together over the years. The books have been a team effort, as his children and wife have done a lot to contribute to the success of this wonderful experience. The approach with their books is to promote interaction and stimulate each child’s imagination as they incorporate ideas from a less digital era. They have introduced finger puppets to represent some of the characters. His illustrators have converted all illustrations into coloring pages (also available free on the website). Kurt’s ultimate goal is to make reading and learning fun, while incorporating the Project Based Learning style and attending school author visits. More information and pictures are available for you to view on his website at .
David Welter, Retired Principal, Afterschool Advocate, and Cancer Survivor, Cedar Falls
Currently a husband (married forty years to Tricia), father of three (John, Rob, and Sarah), grandfather of three (Grace, Lucy, and Hazel), baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves, medical driver for Western Home Communities, educational consultant, farmer, author, and public speaker, Dave was principal at Holmes Jr. High School in Cedar Falls for 16 years. Over his years at Holmes, Dave sustained a 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, ECHOES, and ensured afterschool programming would be in place once he left as principal. Dave has earned multiple awards and honors over his career, including Cornell’s Kelly Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teacher Education (1976), School Administrators of Iowa Middle Level Principal of the Year (2012), and Champion of After School Programming by the National After School Alliance (2013). One of his greatest accomplishments, however, and one that influences him every day, is his achievement over cancer.