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Staff

Jennifer Anderson

Special Education

I attended Iowa State University and received my degree in Elementary Education. I attended Northern Illinois University and received my Master’s Degree in Learning Disabilities. I worked in Sandwich, Illinois for 3 years before returning home to Iowa. I have worked in  Des Moines Public Schools since Fall of 2001.

Karen Anderson

Kindergarten Teacher

Welcome to Kindergarten!   I have taught grades kindergarten through third grade.  Kindergarten is my favorite grade!  The growth students make socially and academically is incredible – I am fortunate to be a part of your child’s life during this time.

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Iowa and my master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Graceland University.  My husband and I have two children – one at UNI and one teaching in Dubuque.

IB Trainings: Introduction to the PYP, Collaborative Planning and Play-based Learning.

I am a firm believer that our kindergarten class is a family!  We will encourage, love, and support each other to be the best we can be!   

 

Any day spent with you is my favorite day. So, today is my new favorite day. —Winnie the Pooh

 

 

Dianna Anderson

Principal

“When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world.”

Melanie Bandow-Stroud

1st Grade Teacher

Hi Park Avenue Families! My name is Melanie Bandow and this is my fourth year of teaching at Park Avenue Elementary. I graduated from The University of Iowa with a BA in Hearing Sciences and Disorders. While working at Heartland Area Education Agency in speech therapy, I received my BA in Elementary Education. Currently, I am pursuing my masters at Drake University. In my spare time, I love being with my family and dog outdoors.

Ben Bates

4th Grade Teacher

Welcome to 4th Grade!  My name is Mr. Bates and I’m excited to be your teacher.  I grew up in Urbandale and went to ISU after high school.  I have twenty-one years of experience teaching 2nd through 5th grade.   A few years ago, I got my Master’s Degree from Drake University and studied Culturally Responsive Instruction.  It was a great experience.  I love working with kids at Park Avenue and I know that it will be a great year!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Nelson Mandela

Leslie Bechen

SUCCESS Caseworker

Hello Park Avenue Families! My name is Leslie Bechen and this is my 1st year at Park Avenue as the Success Case Manager.  I was born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa and I graduated from Simpson College.  In my free time, you can find me cheering on my  children in their various sporting activities.

The Success Program is here to work with students and families who need support in the areas of behavior, attendance and education. I can assist with referrals for basic needs, housing, parenting skills and mental health.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.   -Christopher Robin

Debora Belden

IB Coordinator/Teacher Coach

Hello!  This is my first year at Park Avenue and I am excited to be here!

I have been in education for 19 years and have enjoyed teaching K-6 music, in the classroom with Kindergarten, 1st, 4th, 5th, and 8th graders, as well as, supporting teachers with using arts integration strategies as an Arts Integration Coach.

I grew up in Lake Tahoe, Nevada and graduated from San Diego State University with an emphasis in English Language Learners.  I received my Master of Arts Education from Viterbo University with a Reading Endorsement.

I came to Iowa from the West Coast because I met my husband Mark and now, we have two beautiful children Ainsley and Ficher, as well as a puppy named Latte.  I enjoy spending time with family and friends, running, playing my violin, cello, flute, and piano, and supporting myself and others with our health journeys.

I am looking forward to a wonderful year here at Park Avenue!

Trevance Bell

Special Education Associate

Alex Bogener

Speech-Language Pathologist

Hello!  My name is Alex Bogener and this is my third year at Park Avenue Elementary.  I earned my Bachelor’s degree in speech-language-hearing sciences and Spanish studies from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and my Master’s degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Northern Iowa.  I’m so happy to be working with great students, families and staff at DMPS!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela

LeeAnn Burgess-Henderson

Special Education Associate

Tara Condon

Teacher Leader Coach

This is my 14th year of teaching and my 11th year at Park Avenue. I love being a Park Avenue Panther!! 

I grew up in Sioux City Iowa and went to college at the University of Northern Iowa. I double majored in elementary education and early childhood education with a special education endorsement. I graduated in 2005 and since then I taught kindergarten in Waterloo, English to preschoolers and elementary aged students in Japan, preschool in West Des Moines, and kindergarten and 4th grade at Park Avenue.  I have been an instructional coach for the last 6 years and love the opportunity to work in all of the classrooms in our building. 

In my spare time I enjoy reading all different types of books. I love to travel and have visited over 12 countries, including China, Australia, France, Korea, New Zealand, and England. I love global perspective as part of the IB curriculum.  I like to play golf with my husband and spend time with our two kids, Ella (6) & Jack (2).

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”  – Nelson Mandela

Lacie Corsaut

4th Grade Teacher

Megan Crossett

2nd Grade Teacher

Hello Park Avenue Families and Welcome to 2nd Grade! This will be my sixth year teaching and my first year as a 2nd grade teacher! I am so looking forward to working with your family this school year!

I am originally from Ottumwa, Iowa. I have lived in Des Moines since 2009. I earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Family Studies from Grand View University in 2012 and a Master of Science in Teaching degree from Drake University in 2015. In my free time, I enjoy playing with my Yorkiepoo puppy, Dahlia, spending time with my family at the lake, going on road trips with friends, seeing live music, and reading.

“Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson

Dawn Cullison

3rd Grade Teacher

Hello Park Avenue Families!  I am so excited to be teaching third grade this year.  This will be my third year as a teacher, but I have been a part of the Park Avenue community since 2013.  I spent four years as a special education associate here at Park Avenue, as well as a volunteer and PTA member.  You may have seen me around the building or in the garden, where I love to be!   I graduated from Upper Iowa University in May of 2019  with a BA in Elementary Education.  My husband and I moved to Des Moines in August of 2005, and we welcomed our son in January of 2007.  He was a student at Park Avenue and will be a ninth grader at Lincoln this year. I look forward to meeting my third graders and spending the year learning and growing together!

“Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be.  But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.    -Hemingway

Heather Daemen

Special Education Associate

Cindy Dawson

3rd Grade Teacher

I enjoy teaching and being a 3rd grade teacher at Park Avenue. I earned a Bachelor’s degree from Grand View University and Iowa State University. I completed my Masters degree from Graceland University in Curriculum and Instruction.  I have two children and two kitty cats.  In my spare time I enjoy reading, gardening and watching movies.  I am looking forward to working with your child this year.

Keylee Dopko

Academic Interventionist

Kim Fix-Schmidt

2nd Grade Teacher

Welcome to Second Grade at Park Avenue!  It is a great place to learn and grow.  I am a second career teacher and earned my B. A. from Upper Iowa University.   Outside of school, I enjoy reading and spending time in nature with my family.  We may have an unusual year ahead but it’s going to be fabulous!

IB trainings: Introduction to the PYP and learning PYP with a focus on inquiry and assessments.

Hopes and Dreams: I hope all students become life-long learners to secure their success in the future.

“I touch the future.  I teach”  Christa McAuliffe (teacher astronaut)

Vannessa Foelske

Special Education Associate

Miranda Gatewood

Nurse

Tracey Gibson

5th Grade Teacher

Hello! My name is Tracey Gibson. This is my 5th year at Park Avenue and I am so excited to be part of such an amazing team of educators and students.  I love finding new and exciting ways to make whatever we are learning about come to life for the students.

I am originally from a small town in Missouri — about 300 people! I graduated with only 12 people in my class. I have lived in Ankeny, Iowa for the past 24 years. I have been married to Mark for 21 years and we have three children: Delaney(27), Erin(19) and Zachary(16).  Oh, I can’t forget my dog, Daisy(8). I am also a brand new GRANDMA! I have two twin grandsons – Walter and Barrett.

I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education from Upper Iowa University. I am currently taking classes at Drake University to finish up my Master of Science in Education. I will be graduating in December.

HOPES AND DREAMS:  It is my true desire to be able to challenge my students in and out of the classroom. I want to see my students take action on what they are learning about and truly make their mark on this world. I want their learning to extend to their home lives and become something they are eager to share with their families.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference – IT DOES!”  ~William James

Bethany Gillespie

Special Education

Reese Hanen-Knight

Special Education Associate

Diana Hecht-Gahman

Orchestra Director

Faith Howard

Music Teacher

Hello! My name is Faith Howard and I will be teaching music here at Park Avenue this year! This is my first year teaching and I am very excited to spend it at Park Avenue! I am from northeast Missouri and attended college there at Truman State University where I majored in music education. I also received my Master of Arts in Education at Truman and taught part time at a Catholic school in town. In my free time I enjoy hanging out with my niece and nephew, playing games, and taking walks. I’m looking forward to working with all the students here at Park Avenue!

Macee Hurt

Library Associate

Mike Johnson

Chief of Operations

Baley Johnson

Physical Education

I am proud Southside Des Moines schools alum. I graduated from Lincoln High School in 2008 and continued on to the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND to be a student-athlete. Following my athletic career, I worked at Oakridge Neighborhood where I was 6-12 program coordinator. I decided to go back to school and get my teaching license focused on physical education from Grand View University. I’m eager and excited about coming back to the Southside and entering this new role that will combine my passions: working with kids and athletics.

“Just keep swimming”- Dory

Gabrielle Kirkpatrick

English Language Learner

Welcome to Park Ave!   I have taught third grade, fourth grade and kindergarten in addition to ELLs.  Working with English learners is by far my favorite!

I received my Bachelor’s and degree in Elementary Education from Upper Iowa University and later returned to Upper Iowa to complete my master’s degree with an emphasis on ESL. I have three children, Hadley, Hendrick, and Harrison. We spend lots of time outside playing at parks, cooking, and reading together.

 

Sherida Kuehler

Office Manager

“Get your sparkle on and show this world where you belong!”

Jane Lawson

English Language Learners

I have taught K-5 (ELL) English Language Learners for Des Moines Public Schools since 1999. I taught at Brooks/Lucas, Capitol View, Adams, and Cattell before Park Avenue. I love teaching ELLs and getting to know my students and their families.

I graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in Studio Art and Elementary Education. I earned my Master’s Degree in TESOL (Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages) from the University of Northern Iowa.

I have two boys, a Corgi and a cat. My favorite things to do are attend outdoor festivals and Broadway musicals. I also like cooking, shopping and trying new restaurants.

“Do more of what makes you happy.”

Mary Love

Special Education Consultant

Pamela Martin

2nd Grade Teacher

Welcome to Second Grade!  I received my B.A. from the University of Northern Iowa and M.A. from the University of Iowa. In my spare time, I enjoy being with family, camping and traveling. We are going to have an amazing school year!

Hopes and Dreams: I hope to provide my students with rewarding experiences that will help them succeed in the future.

IB Trainings: Introduction to the PYP, Inquiry, Collaborative Planning and The Role of Mathematics.

Kristi Mayo

Academic Interventionist

I am so excited to join the Park Avenue family this year! I have been teaching for DMPS since 2000 and have experience as a classroom teacher (PreK, Kdg, 1st and 4th grades) and an instructional coach as well as behavior and academic intervention. I went to high school right here in Des Moines, earned my B.A. in elementary education from Grand View University and continued my education with Grand Canyon University, receiving my M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Reading.

I stay busy with my two children who will be a freshman and senior in high school this year, my two little dogs, and my adventure-loving husband. I love boating, traveling, Hawkeye football, crafting and keeping up with everyone’s schedule!

I am so excited to join the Park Avenue family this year! I have been teaching for DMPS since 2000 and have experience as a classroom teacher (PreK, Kdg, 1st and 4th grades) and an instructional coach as well as behavior and academic intervention. I went to high school right here in Des Moines, earned my B.A. in elementary education from Grand View University and continued my education with Grand Canyon University, receiving my M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Reading.

I stay busy with my two children who will be a freshman and senior in high school this year, my two little dogs, and my adventure-loving husband. I love boating, traveling, Hawkeye football, crafting and keeping up with everyone’s schedule!

Michael McCormick

Elementary Counselor

Hello Park Avenue! My Name is Mike McCormick and this is my first year at Park Avenue Elementary. I received my masters in school counseling from the University of Iowa and my undergraduate degree in psychology from Simpson College in Indianola. I’m very excited to be apart of the Park Avenue family and look forward to working with the students, staff and parents in the community!

“Be where your feet are.”- Nick Saban

Class Description

Kate Mead

GT Consultant

Brooke Mendoza

Associate Principal

Welcome to Park Avenue Elementary!  My name is Brooke Mendoza and this is my third  year serving as Associate Principal here.  I spent eight years as a teacher and another five years in building leadership before accepting my current position for DMPS.   My career in education has allowed me to have adventures in both my home state of Kentucky as well as Iowa and led me to gain valuable experiences in districts such as Van Meter, where I also spent many years as an Instructional Coach, as well as Pella Community Schools.

I have a wonderful husband, who is also an administrator for DMPS,  and five amazing children (17, 12, 9, 5, and 9 months) who keep us on our toes. We love spending time watching them succeed in all ways as they grow and change.

At Park Avenue, we focus on growing and developing inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.   Our students have Panther pride and know what it means to ROAR by being responsible, open-minded, always caring, and reflective each day.

I am excited to be a part of such a wonderful building and school district where we strive to be leaders and innovators in public education, offering families some of the best educational choices in Iowa while continuing to work towards becoming the nation’s model for urban education.

Go Panthers!

 

Mercedes Michael

1st Grade Teacher

Hello Park Avenue Families! My name is Mercedes Michael. This is my first year as a classroom teacher. I began my journey with Des Moines Public Schools last December as an Academic Interventionist, specializing in reading. I am so excited to be working with first grade this year. I graduated from Iowa State University in November of 2020 with an Elementary Education bachelor’s degree. I am planning to continue my education by enrolling in a master’s program at Drake University in the future. In my free time I enjoy traveling, spending time with my family and cats! Can’t wait to make this year an amazing one at Park Avenue!

Frances Negussie

Behavior Strategist

Claudette Nelson

5th Grade Teacher

I am excited to be teaching 5th grade this year at Park Avenue.  I have worked in the Des Moines district since 2005 and have taught in grades 3-8.  I earned my bachelor’s degree from Upper Iowa University along with a Reading Endorsement. I earned my master’s degree from Grandview University along with an ELL Endorsement.  I look forward to working with students and their families this year.

I am originally from St Louis, Missouri – LETS GO BLUES!!  I moved to Iowa in 2000 and have two grown children: Jacob and Evan.  In my spare time I like to spend time with family and friends, go camping, read, and listen to all kinds of music.

“When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.” – Dalai Lama

 

Marie Odson

Self-Contained Teacher

Hello Park Avenue Families! I am a first-year teacher at Park Avenue Elementary as a self-contained special educator. Here, I hope to cultivate a productive and efficient learning environment for your children where they feel supported. I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Elementary Education, and an Instructional Strategist 1 minor. I will be pursuing an Instructional Strategist 2 minor in the coming semesters. With my free time, you will find me experimenting in the kitchen, painting, spending time with my friends/family, and taking my dog on adventures.

Rochelle Pentico

4th Grade Teacher

Welcome to 4th grade.  This is my 10th year as a  teacher in the Des Moines district and 7th year teaching 4th grade.  I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education/Middle level endorsement from the University of Northern Iowa.  I received my Masters degree in Elementary studies  from Morningside College.  I feel fortunate to be teaching at Park Avenue as I have made great friendships with the staff and students  here.  My husband and I have three adult children .  I like to cook, read, be creative, and spend time with friends.   I am excited to be working with your child this school year!

Hopes and Dreams: My hope is to help my students reach their fullest potential … to develop as confident thinkers, readers, problem solvers, and friends.

“Teaching is not the filling of a pail , but the lighting of a fire.  Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself. “

Abby Pudenz

Spanish Teacher

Hola!  I’m Abby Pudenz, or as the students know me, Señora Pudenz.  I have taught Elementary Spanish at Park Avenue since 2009.  I am excited for another great year!

Cassidy Rasmusson

5th Grade Teacher

Hello! My name is Cassidy Rasmusson (Lang)  I am excited to be teaching 5th grade at Park Avenue! I am originally from Rockford, Illinois.  I went to school at University of Northern Iowa.  I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education, and Instructional Strategist.  I also graduated with my Master for Arts of Education from Viterbo University.

I love being part of the fifth grade team with Mrs. Gibson and Mrs. Nelson. We are working together to help make this year a celebration for our fifth grade students while learning, researching, and creating their final exhibition project!

Hopes and Dreams: I hope to give my students the support they need to feel confident in themselves.  I hope to challenge my students and provide them with rewarding experiences to help them to succeed in their futures.  I want to make learning exciting, fun, and valuable for my new classroom friends and families.

Inspirational Quote:

*If you are not willing to learn, No one can help you. If you are DETERMINED to learn, No one can stop you.

*They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.

Grace Reeve

Social Worker

Valerie Rohde

KG Teacher

It’s another great year in kindergarten! I have taught kindergarten at Park Avenue for several years and before that was a Montessori pre-k/kindergarten teacher. I am originally from Des Moines and have lived here most of my life.  I have a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in elementary education with a reading endorsement from Drake. I also have my Montessori Early Childhood credential. I love reading, hanging out with my cats, and spending time with family and friends. Helping children to learn how to read is one of my favorite things to do and I am looking forward to sharing lots of books with my kindergarten friends this year!

 

Debra Roney

Academic Interventionist

I attended Drake University for my undergraduate degree and my master’s degree in Effective Teaching and Learning, Reading Specialist. I feel privileged to work with all students and staff at Park Avenue. Over the years I have taught 1st and 4th grades, gifted and talented, worked as an instructional coach and now am a reading/math interventionist. I am fortunate to be a long time south-sider and attended our neighbor schools Brody and Lincoln.

“Everything you know is not all there is to learn.”

Christine Sikes

School Pychologist

Kristashea Sloan

Academic Interventionist

Hello! I am Kristashea Sloan, and I’ll be teaching intervention this year! I started teaching in 2011, I have taught in Des Moines my entire career except for one year of teaching in Montana. I am a new mother to my son, Everett. We are an outdoorsy family; we love camping and anything on water. Our go to place is in and around Duluth, MN. I look forward to working with your student!

Lorie Sparks-Cooper

3rd Grade Teacher

Hello 3rd Grade Families! This year I will be joining a wonderful 3rd Grade Team. I am excited to get back into the classroom. Last year I taught virtually for the whole school year, so it will be wonderful to see so many happy, smiling faces! I have experience with teaching special education, 5th grade and many years of 4th grade. I earned my BA from Grand View University, as well as my Reading endorsement and Special Education endorsement. In 2011 I earned my Masters in Education Leadership from Drake University. With over 16 years of teaching experience I look forward to a new path in my career teaching 3rd grade!

 

Inspirational thinking: If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

David Steinke

Band Director

Mr. David Steinke is in his 9th year as a music educator in the Des Moines Public Schools and his 7th year as Assistant Director of Bands at Roosevelt High School. Duties include co-director of the Roughrider Marching Band as well as Director of the Symphonic Band and Director of Percussion Activities on Des Moines West Side Feeder Pattern System.

Mr. Steinke also serves as Band Director for the Jackson, Jefferson, Howe, Park Avenue and Wright 5th Grade Band Programs.

Originally from Bettendorf, Iowa, Mr. Steinke owns two undergraduate degrees from Iowa State University in Visual Arts and in Music Education as well as a Master’s in Media Design and Educational Technology from Full Sail University. Mr. Steinke is a member of the Iowa Bandmasters Association, South Central Iowa Bandmasters Association and the Percussive Arts Society.

Allison Tamerius

Self-Contained Teacher

This is my fourth year at Park Avenue Elementary as a self-contained special education teacher, servicing students with behavior disorders and/or learning disabilities. In my classroom, students will learn self-regulation and social skills. Students receive core academic instruction in their grade level classroom or in the self-contained classroom, based on individualized student needs. When I am not in the classroom, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, crafting, listening to music, watching documentaries and keeping up with local and global political and social issues.

 

Abby Tidman

Special Education

Hello! My name is Abbie Tidman-O’Bannon. This is my first year of teaching, and I feel very fortunate to be here at Park Avenue.  

I grew up in the Des Moines area and attended Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. I graduated with a BA in Elementary Education with endorsements in Special Education and Reading. I am looking forward to getting to know the students at Park Avenue! 

In my spare time, I like to spend time with my family and friends. I enjoy reading many kinds of books, watching Steelers football, and practicing yoga. 

 

Abby Tran

1st Grade Teacher

Hello Park Avenue families, welcome to first grade! My name is Abigail Tran and this is my second year at Park Avenue. It is my sixth year of teaching and my fourth year in the Des Moines Public Schools district. I was born in Des Moines and graduated from North High School. After high school I earned a degree in Early Childhood Education, a Minor in Learning Technologies, and a Reading Endorsement from Iowa State University. Currently I am working on my masters at Drake University. In my spare time I enjoy being with my family, riding my bike, and spending time outside. I am excited for this school year!

“Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and begin the trail.” -Ruby Bridges

Jennifer Warner-Blankenship

Art Teacher

Welcome to Art!  This will be my eighth year at Park Avenue Elementary.  About me: I am originally from Eastern Iowa, I attended Iowa State University for Art and Design and after graduating attended University of Iowa for Art Education.  When I am not teaching, I love spending time with my husband and son.  We love being outside, reading, going to parks, traveling, and trying new things.  I am excited for another great year of creativity with Park Avenue students!

“I guess I’m a little weird. I like to talk to trees and animals. That’s okay though; I have more fun than most people.” ~Bob Ross

“You throw yourself into moments of fear, and on the other side of it – if you survive- are the rewards” ~Kehinde Wiley

 

 

External Links

https://sites.google.com/view/parkaveart/home

 

Kenzie Weitl

Kindergarten Teacher

Welcome to Kindergarten!  This is my 14th year teaching for DMPS.  I have taught universal preschool, first grade, and kindergarten.  I received my Bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa.  I have my degrees in Elementary and Early Childhood Education with an Early Childhood Special Education endorsement.  I finished my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Graceland University in 2013.  In my free time I like to go camping, garden, play with my miniature dachshund named Dash, and spend time with my family and friends.

IB Trainings: Making the PYP Happen in the Classroom, Concept-based Learning, Play-based Learning

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” – Chinese Proverb

Ann Zenti

Special Education

Hello and welcome! This is my 5th year teaching at Park Avenue. Previous to the past 5 years, I taught in Arizona for 20 years. I appreciate building relationships with students and look forward to guiding students each day. I also love teaching in our IB World School because we encourage both personal and academic achievement. The program calls for students to express themselves through writing, requires community service, and aims “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” I am proud to be a part of this positive learning community!!
I am originally from Iowa and glad to be back. I have one son and a beautiful 4 year old granddaughter. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family, water sports, biking, art, music, and laughing.

Hopes and Dreams: To guide students towards becoming positive, happy, healthy, confident problem solvers, as well as, enriched members of society.

“Proceed as if success is inevitable. “