Officers Board Members Liaison Members
Lora Duffy Danker, President Catherine Blando Laurie Croft, PhD, Belin-Blank Center, UI
Susan Wouters, Past-president Brian Bowers Rosanne Malek, Iowa Dept. of Education
Carol Boyce, Secretary Brea Burrack
Chris Schultz, Treasurer Casey Dunley
Todd Hodgkinson, PhD
Executive Director Michelle Kavars
Maureen Marron, PhD Linda Linn
Brett Monnard
Kathy Paul
Tony Voss
Penny Watgen, PhD
Hollie Weber

If you are interested in speaking to a board member, send a request to info”AT” Please specify the board member you would like to contact and the reason for the contact.


ITAG President Lora Danker is a newly retired educator of thirty-seven years in education, most of which were focused on serving gifted children and their families in the College Community School District, commonly known as Cedar Rapids Prairie. While at Prairie, Lora helped create and implement annual, district-wide professional development opportunities focused on gifted initiatives in face to face, remote, and blended learning formats; helped form and facilitate the parent Advisory Council on Gifted Education; and facilitated the Student Services team composed of administration, counselors, and several other professionals who, among other initiatives, worked together to build and implement a college and career readiness model of service.

Lora holds a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary English Education from The University of Iowa; a Masters Degree as a Reading Specialist from the former Marycrest College; a Gifted Endorsement through the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa; and a Masters of Science in Education Leadership from Drake University, which includes evaluation of special education programs. Lora is a trained in-person and online facilitator for SMPGs, Seng Model Parent Groups. She serves as an adjunct lecturer for the Gifted Endorsement program through the Belin-Blank Center at The University of Iowa. Lora is in her third term with the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association’s Board of Directors, previously serving as the Newsletter Editor and Finance Committee Chair. Lora is married, and a parent of young, gifted adults. Lora Danker can be reached at


ITAG Past-president Susan Wouters has been an educator with the Waukee Community School District for 23 years, working with gifted children and their families for the last 20 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 the Waukee ELP Parent Group, 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 has served on Membership, Awards, and Educator Outreach committees.  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.


ITAG Secretary 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.




ITAG Treasurer Christine Brunko Schultz is retired after working with bright students with math issues as a Senior Lecturer at Iowa State University and 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 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.

Board Members

Most recently, Catherine Blando worked as a college supervisor for student teaching for Iowa Wesleyan University. She is lead consultant with Blando & Associates Consulting, LLC. From 2003-2012, Catherine 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 21 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 in all areas of gifted education programming and evaluation. 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. Most recently, Catherine serves as president of Mercy Medical Center’s Hospital Auxiliary. She is also current president of P.E.O. Chapter IAIH.

Brian Bowers is the Pocahontas Area Community School Districts K-12 TAG coordinator. He worked as a 6th grade teacher for one year, 4th grade teacher for 5 years, and is currently in his second year as the TAG Teacher/Coordinator. He graduated from UNI with an Elementary Education degree and a minor in science, from Concordia University with a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in science, and is currently finishing up his TAG endorsement. Brian has a passion for science and the STEM fields and has worked towards receiving numerous Iowa STEM grants over his years teaching. Within the classroom Brian has helped work with whole grade acceleration, cluster grouping, subject specific acceleration, and classroom transformation with flexible seating. You can find Brian in his classroom with no desk sitting on his own wobble chair with his students. When not at school he has a passion for hiking, backpacking, camping, and spending time with his wife and five little children.

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 18 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 8th/9th ELP teacher at Timberline and Prairieview Schools 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 conference 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.



Casey Dunley currently serves as a Gifted and Talented Consultant at Roosevelt High School in the Des Moines Public School District. She is passionate about equity, extended learning opportunities, student voice and choice, academic planning, and the social-emotional needs of gifted high school students. She teaches both a GT Extended Learning Seminar and a GT Leadership and Mentorship course and works with Roosevelt’s Professional Learning Communities and the School Leadership Team. She is in her 32nd year in education and her 9th year as a GT Consultant. She spent most of those years teaching middle school. Casey earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education as well as her GT Endorsement from the University of Iowa and a Master of Science in Education Degree with an emphasis in Urban Education from Drake University. Her endorsements include: Reading, History, Social Studies, and Gifted Education. She has attended Confratute at UCONN for four years, has been fortunate enough to be able to expand on her professional knowledge and networking at NAGC each year, and she is a trained SENG Parent Group Facilitator. She thrives on being able to work with students, parents, teachers, and administration to best meet the needs of both the TRHS gifted students, and gifted students in general. Casey has two children and is passionate about social justice, travel, wellness, and professional learning!

Dr. Todd Hodgkinson is an Associate Professor of Secondary Education at Drake University, where he works to educate teachers about the needs of gifted learners. Dr. Hodgkinson has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Iowa and a M.A. in Gifted Education from University of Northern Colorado (where he studied under the late Dr. George Betts). His research and pedagogical interests focus on the intersection between curriculum design and supporting the social-emotional needs of gifted learners. Prior joining the faculty at Drake University, Dr. Hodgkinson was a gifted and talented coordinator and Honors English Language Arts instructor in the Cherry Creek School District No. 5 (Colorado). Dr. Hodgkinson has been working with gifted learners for over 20 years.




Michelle Kavars considers herself a grown up gifted kid, and parent to three gifted (and intense) teenagers. She is a proud Titan teacher in the Lewis Central Community School District as the TAG Strategist for students in middle and high school. She currently works in meeting the needs of gifted students using acceleration, cluster grouping, and collaborative planning and especially enjoys coaching Mock Trial and co-teaching a high school TAG Seminar course. Michelle presented at the 2018 ITAG Fall Conference on MTSS Universal Tier Strategies for Advanced Learners and on Cluster Grouping. She currently chairs the ITAG Board Communications Committee and edits the newsletter. Outside of school, she is usually reading, knitting, or cheering on her teenagers. Michelle holds a BA in English from the University of Northern Iowa, a K-12 TAG endorsement from Morningside College, and is taking courses toward a Master’s degree from Morningside College, with a focus on gifted education and teacher leadership.


Linda Linn is beginning her third year of “active” retirement after 34 years in education. She has had the privilege of being a para-professional, substitute teacher, alternative school coordinator, Pre-K – 12th grade school counselor and AEA Instructional Services Consultant. She earned her B.S. in Secondary Social Studies Education, M.S. in PreK-12 School Counseling and Administrative endorsement. She is a proud Belin-Blank Fellow, which ignited her passion for the needs of students and families in the area of gifted and talented education. As a 19-year School Counseling and Gifted/Talented consultant at Prairie Lakes AEA, she realized similar needs of both professions and created professional development for G/T in Comprehensive Gifted/Talented Programming, as well as creating a collaborative Gifted/Talented Forum with Northwest AEA. Linda is an ITAG mentor to new beginning G/T teachers, teaches on-line courses for the IA College and Career-Ready Academy, is a past President of the IA School Counseling Assoc., is a City Council member for Fostoria, IPERS Improvement Assoc. Board member and Older Iowans Legislature representative. She has presented multiple learning sessions at state and regional conferences. She and her husband are the proud parents of three wonderful women and grandparents of 9, soon to be 10 grandchildren. Linda is proud of her ability to listen with empathy and ask questions which will move us forward. She is action- oriented and passionate about working to meet the cognitive, affective and career needs of our children and youth.


Brett Monnard is currently a Master’s student in the University of Connecticut’s  GCT@UConn Program.  Previously, he served as a Gifted and Talented Coordinator in the Davenport School District for Nine years, where he worked with students at the Elementary, Intermediate, and HIgh School levels.  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. During his time on the board, Brett has written several articles on Legislative Advocacy for the newsletter. Brett first presented at the 2012 ITAG conference on the affective programming Davenport offers its 6th Grade TAG students, and has since presented on topics including creativity, advocacy, philosophy, and incorporating popular culture into the classroom.  In 2019, he and other board members presented a session on gifted advocacy at both the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, and NAGC  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 ITAG, NAGC, and WCGTC.


Kathy Paul has been an educator for 37 years in Iowa, with a passion for gifted education. She was a teacher of the gifted at all grade levels and recently retired from her position as part-time coordinator of the Extended Learning Program (ELP) at Johnston Community Schools.  The Johnston parent group (Friends of J-ELP), formed under her leadership in 1985, is one of the largest and most active parent organizations in the state. Kathy has provided staff development in many districts and enjoys working with teachers to increase ability with differentiation and meeting academic and social-emotional needs. She helped to develop the courses for the gifted endorsement at Drake University in 2006, and currently teaches three of their online courses in gifted education. Kathy received a Bachelor of Science in Human Development/Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education, a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology and a Gifted Endorsement from the University of Nebraska.  She received the NAGC Professional Achievement Certificate in 2004 for her research and work related to professional development and differentiation and has presented at NAGC.  A frequent presenter at the ITAG conference, she also co-chaired the state conference in 1999, and was awarded the Distinguished Service award in 2008.  Kathy and her husband keep a suitcase packed because they love travel and family time, especially with their granddaughter.  Photography, sewing, jewelry-making, and other crafting help her fulfill her motto: “I can make that!”


Tony Voss is a very familiar ITAG face.  He first served on the board in 2003, the year he was the conference co-chair in Waterloo.  Tony served on the board for two terms and co-chaired two additional conferences. He began his teaching career as a 4th grade teacher and continued in that position for 12 years. He was then invited to take on the challenge of K-12 Talented and Gifted Coordinator at Eldora-New Providence Community Schools and did so through 2005. Along with his coordinator duties, he volunteers as trainer for the Tiger football and basketball team and co-advised the Yearbook and Student Council. Tony received his BA from Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, and his M.A.E in Elementary Curriculum from the University of Northern Iowa.  Along with his degrees he has a K-12 TAG Endorsement, K-12 Administrative Endorsement and a Music Approval. Tony was responsible for expanding the Talented and Gifted Program at E-NP (now South Hardin) into grades 9-12.  He has been a long-standing member of ITAG and was active with the Legislative committee.  He is a strong advocate for gifted students and gifted programs in Iowa. For the past thirteen years Tony has been a gifted and talented consultant for secondary schools with the Des Moines Independent School District.  He is starting his 6th year at North High School and Goodrell MS and his 29th year in gifted education. Outside of school Tony is very active in the community. He sings in the Plymouth Chancel Choir and Chorale.  He works part-time as a Hospitality Supervisor with Des Moines Performing Arts at the Civic Center and you may have purchased a entry ticket from him at the Iowa State Fair. Tony has been a foster parent and enjoys the relationship he has kept with his foster son. There is not a lot of time for any grass to grow under his feet.  He is a life long learner and continues to keep up with the changes and challenges of gifted education. He looks forward to continued service to gifted and talented students in Iowa.

Penny Watgen, PhD is in her sixth year of teaching gifted education at Clay, Altoona, and Runnells Elementaries within the Southeast Polk District. Penny received her Master’s in from Drake University, with an endorsement in gifted education and high school business. In August 2020, she received a PhD in Educational Leadership at Drake University, with an emphasis on research in gifted education. In her position, she collaborates with classroom teachers to provide appropriate enriched curriculum, while also utilizing a pull-out model for small groups of students. Penny has an extreme interest in the area of social-emotional development in gifted kids, stemming from the unique needs she has seen in her own three gifted sons. To cultivate the understanding of the importance of social-emotional awareness of gifted students, Penny is a SENG certified group facilitator, and leads groups for parents. She also has led a district-wide parent night for those interested in learning further about the unique needs of gifted students. Penny has implemented a STEM Club for students before school for those interested in joining. She also served as the vice-president of the parent group in Ankeny Community School District, with the purpose of supporting and enriching the AELP program in that community. Her greatest goal is to provide a challenging curriculum to help this unique population grow, in terms of academics and personally.

Hollie Weber has worked with TAG students though out her 18-year teaching career as a middle school classroom teacher for TAG cluster groups in an urban school and as a program coordinator and single-practitioner in a rural school. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Northern Iowa in elementary and middle school education. She completed her TAG endorsement through courses at the Belin-Blank Center and Drake University while also earning her Master’s degree through Viterbo. She returned to her “home” district 11 years ago to serve in the same program she once participated in. She hopes to provide students at Central Lee with opportunities that will enrich, empower, and connect them with a sense of purpose. She resides with her husband and three school-aged children on their family century-farm.




Liaison Members

Laurie Croft, PhD, 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 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.

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.