Officers Board Members Liaison Members
Doreen Underwood, President Kelly Bazan Laurie Croft, PhD, Belin-Blank Center, UI
Susan Wouters, President-Elect Catherine Blando Rosanne Malek, Iowa Dept. of Education
Brooke Gevock, Secretary Carol Boyce
Chris Schultz, Interim Treasurer Brea Burrack
Barb Butler, Treasurer Lora (Lori) Duffy Danker
Lorraine Duitsman
Bonnie Hilger
Deb Mishak, PhD
Brett Monnard
Syndy Richey
JoAnne Sackett
Sara St. John
Bengu E. Tekinalp, PhD
Nicole Umland
Heather Weers



President Doreen Underwood has held both elementary and secondary TAG positions with the Anamosa Community Schools, the Davenport Community Schools, and the Keokuk Community School District. She currently works as the Diverse Learner Specialist for Great Prairie AEA. Doreen received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Iowa and received her TAG Endorsement from the University of Iowa in 2001. She received her Master of Arts degree in School Counseling with a gifted emphasis from the University of Iowa in 2010. During her time on the ITAG board she has served as the assistant editor of the ITAG News and produced the monthly ITAG Spotlight. Currently she serves as the editor of the ITAG News. Doreen has presented at the 2004, 2010, 2011, and 2013 ITAG Conference. In December 2007, she had an article she co-authored published in the 2e Newsletter on Meeting the Affective and Academic Needs of Gifted Students with Asperger’s Syndrome. In 2009 she served on a panel discussion for Twice Exceptional Students at the Wallace Symposium. You may contact Doreen at

President-Elect Susan Wouters has been an educator with the Waukee Community School District for 21 years, working with gifted children and their families for the last 18 years as an Extended Learning Program (ELP) teacher. She has taught and facilitated gifted and talented programming at both the elementary and secondary levels, planned and implemented professional development pertaining to gifted education for K-9 staff and has served as ELP Coordinator for the district. Susan co-founded and led Waukee Academic Boosters, has presented at ITAG conferences, is a trained SENG facilitator, and teaches TAG Endorsement courses for Drake University as an adjunct instructor.  She has served on the ITAG Board of Directors since 2010, co-chaired the 2012 ITAG conference and serves on the Educator Outreach committee.  Susan received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Graceland University, TAG endorsement from University of Iowa, and Masters of Science in Education, Curriculum Leadership, from Drake University. You may contact Susan at

Secretary Brooke Gevock is the current Talented and Gifted teacher at Ottumwa High School, as well as a Ph.D. candidate at Drake University.  She is in her 4th year of teaching gifted education and her 13th year overall.  Prior to teaching talented and gifted students, Brooke taught elementary vocal music and middle school choir for the Harmony, Fairfield, and Ottumwa school districts.  Brooke holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Iowa Wesleyan University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Morningside College, and a PK-12 Administrative License from the University of Iowa.  She was a recipient of the 2015 ITAG Research Award Grant in the Advanced Division for her research on the underrepresentation of English Language Learners for Talented and Gifted programs.  Currently, Brooke is writing her doctoral dissertation on this same topic.  As former gifted student herself, Brooke’s other passion is advocating for more adequate instruction for gifted students in regular education classes.  She can be reached at

Interim treasurer Christine Brunko Schultz works with bright students with math issues as a Senior Lecturer at Iowa State University and is completing her 44th year in public education. Formerly she was the Talented and Gifted Strategist at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She developed and facilitated Challenge Math for elementary students. Her experience also includes both fifth and eighth grade classrooms. Her local, state, and national level presentations are numerous and have been on any and all aspects of Challenge Center Math, technology, problem solving strategies, and the appropriate programming for K-16 gifted students. She developed two of the online classes for Drake University’s online gifted endorsement and was their instructor for many years. She has also been an Instructor for the Belin-Blank Center’s Challenge Math Saturdays. Chris has served with the STEM network for NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) for 9 years and was formerly their newsletter editor. She is the co-author of “Secondary Mathematics for High-Ability Students” a chapter in The Handbook of Secondary Gifted Education, second edition. Dixon & Moon. (2015) Prufrock Press. Waco, Texas   In 2006 she earned her Professional Achievement Certificate from NAGC exploring how to best identify and serve high ability English Language Learners at the high school level. In 1996 she was the state level awardee for The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching at the elementary mathematics level. This award is given through the National Science Foundation with the assistance of NSTA and NCTM. Chris has also served the gifted community at the state level as a part of the board of Iowa Talented and Gifted for ten years including three years as president. She was recently appointed to the position of Interim Treasurer and is now back serving with the Board. In 2008 she was honored by the University of Northern Iowa’s Upward Bound Math & Science Program with a Lifetime Mentoring Award. Chris is mom to 3 adult children and Nana to 3 terrific grandchildren. You may contact Chris at

Treasurer Barbara Butler has been teaching gifted students in Sioux City for the past 19 years. Most of her experience has been at the middle school level; however, she has worked with students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Throughout the years with the Sioux City TAG Department, she has been involved with writing curriculum, developing Standards and Benchmarks, mentoring new TAG teachers, testing students, and designing TAG informational materials. In addition, she served on the State Accreditation Review Panel and the district TAG Review Committee. She received her BS from Iowa State University and her MA/Reading Specialist from Morningside College and has taken TAG classes from Drake University. You may contact Barbara at

Board Members

Kelly Bazan currently serves as a Gifted and Talented Consultant for the Des Moines Public School District. She is passionate about differentiation and meeting the needs of all students in the classroom. Over the past twenty years, her experiences have ranged from being a preschool consultant to an upper elementary and middle school teacher. She has also partnered with Simpson College supervising student teachers preparing to join the field of education. Kelly earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from Iowa State University and a Master of Arts Degree from Viterbo University. Her endorsements include: Reading, Middle School Generalist, English/Language Arts and Gifted Education. She is a trained SENG Parent Group Facilitator and thrives working with others to meet the needs of gifted students! Personally, Kelly is married and has two children that have grown up in Waukee, Iowa. She loves to shop, travel and spend time with her family!

Most recently, Catherine Blando has worked as a college supervisor for student teaching for Iowa Wesleyan University. She is lead consultant with Blando & Associates Consulting, LLC. From 2003-2012, she was Program Administrator for Curriculum and for Academic Talent Search at the Belin-Blank Center, College of Education, The University of Iowa. Her background includes teaching in Illinois, some of that time spent as a Resource Teacher and Coordinator for Gifted Education. For many years she was employed by Grant Wood Area Education Agency (AEA 10/Cedar Rapids) as Consultant for Gifted Education. As an AEA consultant she worked with school district personnel across Iowa and beyond as they developed, delivered, and evaluated their gifted education programs. She regularly provided professional development training. She is founder and for 17 years was Director of a highly successful College for Kids Program (Cornell College, Coe College), a program which continues to this day. She often presents at regional, state, national, and international meetings. She is co-author of numerous publications on general education, gifted education, thinking skills, and inventiveness. She is a member of the Board of Directors, Iowa Talented and Gifted Association (ITAG).  She was president of ITAG for two years. She was editor of the ITAG Newsmagazine for eleven years. In 2002, Catherine received ITAG’s Distinguished Service Award. She is serving her third term on the Legislative Committee for the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and in November of 2016 in Orlando she received the NAGC David W. Belin Advocacy Award.  She has served on the boards of Waypoint and Young Parents Network in Cedar Rapids, IA. She is a licensed strategic planner, a certified Seven Habits trainer, and she works with groups using storyboards to do compression/creative action planning.

Carol Boyce is a retired teacher of the gifted in Waterloo, Iowa. Carol is a member of ITAG, NAGC, and the Iowa Academy of Science. She is a trained SENG facilitator and has published articles on topics related to gifted children in Instructor magazine, G/C/T magazine, and Learning Today magazine. Carol has attended state, national and international gifted conferences and has been a presenter at several. She believes in supporting gifted educators, especially teachers new to the field, both in urban and rural districts. Serving on the ITAG Board has provided an opportunity to share her several years of experience as a gifted education teacher in ways that will assist in furthering the goals of the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association. You may contact Carol at

Brea Burrack received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from University of Iowa, TAG endorsement from University of Iowa, and Masters of Science in Education from Viterbo University.  Brea has worked 17 years for Waukee Community School District.  Her career with Waukee started as a third grade teacher where she taught for seven years and was then hired as K-5 Extended Learning Program (ELP) teacher. Currently, Brea is the 6th/7th ELP teacher at South Middle School and 8th/9th ELP teacher at Timberline in Waukee.  Brea works collaboratively with general education teachers, AEA staff, administration and parents to facilitate communication as well as ensure gifted students’ needs and supports are understood and implemented.  She has taught and facilitated gifted and talented adult and student summer classes, has presented at past ITAG break out sessions, and has planned and implemented professional development to K-5 staff on social/emotional, twice exceptionality, and intellectual needs of gifted students.

Lori Danker (Lora Duffy Danker) begins her 32nd year as an educator, two-thirds of which have been spent with a focus on gifted education. She serves as the 9-12 Gifted and Talented/Differentiation Specialist at College Community Schools in Cedar Rapids. Services to students include serving as the IOAPA Site Coordinator; push-in, pull-out, independent study and advisement, and facilitating many learning opportunities, such as state STEM cyber defense, robotics, and virtual reality 3-D modeling academic teams; the Junior Science and Humanities Symposia; and Coe Science Olympiad. Lori has an undergraduate degree is Secondary English from The University of Iowa, a Master of Arts as a Reading Specialist from Marycrest College; a K-12 Gifted Endorsement through the Belin Blank Center at The University of Iowa; and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Drake University, where she was named “Outstanding Graduate”. She has served in numerous leadership roles at the building and district levels, and presents regularly to parents, staff, and the school board through the district GT parent advisory committee, professional learning, and program evaluations. She has presented or served on state panels at ITAG and ELL conferences, and nationally at the ALPs conference in Estes Park, and in Orlando for work she has done in conjunction with Kirkwood Community College and the National Science Foundation. Recent work has involved online and blended learning, with focus on grading reform and Competency Based Education. Lori’s passion is meaningful work with students, colleagues, and parents that leads to forward motion and enduring understandings. You may contact Lori at or follow her on Twitter @ldanker.

Lorraine Duitsman has a gifted endorsement from the University of Iowa and a Bachelors and Masters Degree in English Literature from the University of Northern Iowa. She has had nearly 10 years of experience working with gifted students at the secondary level, including both middle school and high school students in the Council Bluffs area. Her areas of experience include making use of individualized learning plans for gifted students, and implementing successful AP programs, Type III Enrichment, cluster grouping practices, and professional development programs for teachers to meet the needs of gifted students in their classrooms. Lorraine has had experience coaching many enrichment programs, from summer gifted camps to extended learning experiences within the school day. Currently, Lorraine is serving as an Instructional Coach at Lewis Central High School. As an instructional coach with gifted training, she supports teachers in gathering data to drive instructional decision making in the hopes of accelerating learning for all students and providing support for the implementation of acceleration and differentiation practices. Lorraine is the 2016 ITAG conference chair. You may contact Lorraine at or follow her on Twitter @L_Duitsman.

Bonnie Hilger is a parent of highly gifted children in the Fairfield Community School District. She founded and leads TAG Friends, a parent group whose goals include parental networking, creating and sharing enriching opportunities, and creating a collective voice for gifted advocacy. In order to ensure the needs of all high ability students (pre-K and above) are being met, she is working closely with the district to define TAG identification policies, to create a 6-year college bound graduation plan, to create professional development for gifted classroom differentiation, and to advocate for Gifted Personalized Education Plans (PEPs), preschool-2nd grade identification policy, and increased options for subject acceleration. To better understand the issues and needs of the gifted, she has attended multi-state and national TAG conferences. Bonnie has a double major in Biology and in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and a Masters of Community and Regional Planning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has received three Presidential Volunteer Service Awards because of her commitment to the community. She coaches a FTC robotics team, leads a 4H club, is chair of missions at church, manages an online site for gifted education, homeschools her youngest daughter, and is a stay at home mom of two other exceptionally gifted children. You may contact Bonnie at

Debra Mishak, Ph.D., is the co-owner of a coaching/consulting practice for gifted, talented and creative teens and adults in Central Iowa. Prior to opening her practice in 2015, Dr. Mishak served the gifted community for thirty years as a supervisor of gifted education for the Des Moines Public Schools, a clinical professor of counselor education and gifted education administrator at The University of Iowa and the Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, a K-12 school counselor and a secondary choral director. Debra consults regionally, nationally and internationally on the social and emotional challenges of the gifted and talented, post-secondary planning for gifted and talented teens and young adults, and on educator and administrator mental and emotional health. Debra loves traveling, cooking, singing in a semi-professional choir, and gardening. You may contact Debra at

Brett Monnard is currently an Elementary and Middle School Gifted and Talented Coordinator in the Davenport School District.  As a student, he was involved in his district’s TAG program from elementary through high school.  He received his BA in History and Secondary Education from Wartburg College and his Gifted Endorsement from University of Northern Iowa.    He has spent the past six years serving gifted students in the middle grades and began also working with elementary students during the 2015-16 school year.  Brett presented a session at the 2012 ITAG conference on the affective programming Davenport offers its 6th Grade TAG students, and he will be presenting three sessions this year.  He has taught multiple classes at the summer College 4 Kids programs at multiple sites in the Quad Cities.  To share his passion for students’ creativity, Brett has been involved in Destination Imagination as a volunteer appraiser, a team manager and trainer.  He maintains membership in both ITAG and NAGC.

Syndy Richey has been teaching for the past 13 years. Syndy works in the Cedar Rapids Community Schools as a TAG teacher and Instructional Coach at Kennedy High School. During her years with the Cedar Rapids Schools TAG department, she has helped create curriculum for second grade through middle school, helped to expand the district Standards and Benchmarks for talented and gifted students, helped to update the high school TAG program to best meet the needs of the students, piloted an iPad initiative, led PLC meetings and assisted the department when it comes to their technology needs.  She holds a BA in Music Education from MidAmerica Nazarene University, a Masters of Music Education from the University of Minnesota, a TAG endorsement from the University of Iowa and a Masters of Educational Leadership from the University of Iowa. Her previous experience includes teaching gifted students from second through twelfth grades, teaching choir, orchestra and general music to students from Kindergarten through 9th grade. Syndy excels in organization and technology.

JoAnne Sackett has been teaching talented and gifted students for the past 10 years. Currently she is the Talented and Gifted Coordinator for the Okoboji School District, and prior to moving to Iowa, she worked with Gifted children in the Los Angeles Unified School District. While at Okoboji she has revamped the Identification policy, chartered a new Acceleration Policy, facilitates gifted education professional development and has implemented the School wide Enrichment Model. JoAnne is a licensed SENG Facilitator, serves on the board of the Pearson Lakes Art Center, serves on the board of the Conservation Foundation of Dickinson County and is past president of Lakeland TAG. JoAnne holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Connecticut with an emphasis on gifted education. Currently she is working on an Education Leadership Doctorate from the University of St. Thomas. You may contact JoAnne at or at

Sara St. John became the Keokuk High School Extended Learning Program coordinator in 2014 and was the Burlington High School Extended Learning Services coordinator for three years prior. She is in her fifth year of teaching gifted education and her thirteenth year teaching overall. After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa in 2003, Sara taught English at both the middle and high school levels for eight years until a prodigious writing student inspired her to pursue additional training in talented and gifted education. She was a member of the inaugural Viterbo University Gifted Education cohort in Iowa. She is a member of ITAG and NAGC. Sara presented at the 2011 ITAG conference and was a member of the conference planning committee. Sara is passionate about supporting teachers to better serve their gifted students in the regular classroom and empowering gifted students to pursue their intellectual passions through independent research and project-based learning. She has published articles on those topics for past ITAG newsletters. Personally, Sara is married to a fellow education nerd, Corey St. John and has two very active little girls aged four and one. In her bits of spare time, she likes to refurbish furniture, try new recipes, listen to NPR, and chase her busy children. You may contact Sara at

Bengu Erguner Tekinalp, Ph.D. is an associate professor in Counselor Education Program at Drake University. She is the advisor for school counseling students and is the Counselor Education program coordinator. Her research agenda consists of three interconnecting areas of research; cross cultural research, positive humanistic, Adlerian psychology and school counseling. She has publications in applications of positive psychology in educational settings, resilience, theories of counseling, refugee students and comprehensive school counseling programs. Bengu is a native of Turkey and is a parent of two girls who are in elementary school in Waukee School District. Bengu is interested in early identification of gifted students, encouraging gifted girls and racially, ethnically and culturally underrepresented populations in gifted education. She wants to use her background in school counseling, research and her experiences of being an international parent to support ITAG. You may contact Bengu at

Nicole Umland has been teaching talented and gifted students in the Sioux City Community School District for the last ten years. Her passion has always been working with children who weren’t experiencing success in the traditional classroom setting. Nicole realized after accepting this position that her definition of special education had to be redefined. Gifted children ALSO had special needs that weren’t being met in the traditional classroom. She was frustrated so little attention and instruction was given to supporting high ability learners during her undergraduate coursework. Nicole’s passion for teaching also had to be redefined to include educating colleagues and administration on how to serve gifted learners. She pursued further education and received her TAG endorsement in 2006 and master’s degree in 2008, both from Morningside College. In 2008, she presented at ITAG and recently submitted a proposal for the 2015 conference. In 2013, Nicole received national board certification in the area of Exceptional Needs Specialist. She also directed Camp Invention for more than eight summers in Sioux City and two summers in Iowa City. She felt this was an excellent tool to help extend children’s thinking during the summer months. In addition, Nicole has facilitated and presented at numerous professional development sessions on differentiation and how to support high ability learners in the classroom. Recently, she presented a session at Leadership Academy on how to serve high ability students in math using the Challenge Path (compacted approach for the GO Math curriculum) and choice boards she helped create to differentiate math instruction. Nicole is particularly interested in addressing the social/emotional needs of high ability learners. She will receive her SENG training this fall and her district plans to implement parent groups for 2015-2016 school year. She thoroughly enjoys collaborating with her colleagues and administration on how to best identify and serve high ability learners. You may contact Nicole at

Heather Weers graduated from Iowa State with a B.S. in Psychology. She is employed as an Education Manager for Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa. She also holds various volunteer positions in the Anamosa community and the Anamosa School District. Heather is a co-founder and organizer of a running club at both the elementary and the middle school in Anamosa. She serves on the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition, the Anamosa Community School District Foundation Board, the Strawberry Hill Early Childhood PBIS team, PTO, and the Cedar/Jones Early Childhood Iowa Board. She is also active in Big Brothers Big Sisters.  In addition, Heather Weers is a mother of three boys. Her youngest son is in first grade and her two older boys are both in ELP, with one having been grade advanced and the other subject advanced. Heather is very supportive and a true believer in advocacy for the talented and gifted. In addition, she has a great interest in being a voice for youth. Please feel free to contact Heather at

Liaison Members

Laurie Croft, Ph.D., is the Associate Director for Professional Development at the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center in Gifted Education and Talent Development, a part of the College of Education at the University of Iowa. She received her Bachelor of Arts (Honors) and Master of Arts degrees, both in History, from Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, respectively. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at the University of Tulsa, emphasizing gifted programming. Research interests include the conceptual foundations of gifted education and professional development for teachers of the gifted. Croft has made presentations at various state, national, and international conferences, and to parent groups, teachers, and school boards. As well, she has experience facilitating professional development in gifted education for educators from around the world. At the Belin Blank Center, Croft is responsible for coordinating the comprehensive program of classes and workshops in gifted education that enable educators to earn an endorsement in gifted education and supervises practicum experiences for teachers of the gifted. A clinical associate professor in Teaching and Learning, she develops new professional educational opportunities for teachers and has designed new courses in curriculum concepts and in program models in gifted education. Croft serves as the Honors Advisor for the College of Education Honors Opportunity Program, and she encourages undergraduates in the Teacher Education Program to complete coursework in gifted education, a shortage area in Iowa, as well as other states. You may contact Laurie at

Rosanne Malek is the Education Program Consultant for K-12 Gifted/Talented Programming at the Iowa Department of Education. Rosanne’s duties at the Iowa Department of Education include supervising K-12 gifted and talented programming, administrating federal grants, and providing professional development opportunities for educators. Rosanne has presented numerous times at the Iowa Talented and Gifted State Conference and the National Association for Gifted Children National Conference. She participates as an advisory board member to the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association and she represents the Iowa Department of Education on the national Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted.  Rosanne served as president and as an executive board member of the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted from 2006-2012. Rosanne has Administration Certification in Educational Leadership from Colorado University, a Master of Music Education degree from Johns Hopkins University/Peabody Conservatory of Music, and Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Wyoming. Prior to working in administration, Rosanne taught performing arts at the middle school and high school levels in Iowa, Wyoming, Maryland, and Colorado, the longest tenure at the Air Force Academy School District in Colorado Springs, CO. Her most recent international piano performance was in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2009. Rosanne is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa.