Officers Board Members Liaison Members
Susan Wouters, President Catherine Blando Laurie Croft, PhD, Belin-Blank Center, UI
Carol Boyce, Secretary Brea Burrack Rosanne Malek, Iowa Dept. of Education
Chris Schultz, Treasurer Stacy Campbell
Lori Danker, President-Elect Casey Dunley
Bonnie Hilger
Executive Director Michelle Kavars
Maureen Marron, PhD Deb Mishak, PhD
Brett Monnard
Kathy Paul
Sara St. John
Tony Voss
Penny Watgen
Linda Zachar


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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.

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.

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.

President-Elect Lori Danker is in her 36th year as an educator, most of which have focused on gifted education. She serves as a secondary gifted and talented specialist for College Community (Prairie) in Cedar Rapids. Lori’s roles include serving as the IOAPA Site Coordinator and the district representative on the Governor’s Cyber Alliance Working Group. Lori 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 in the College of Education at The University of Iowa; and a Master of Science in Education Leadership from Drake University. Lori serves as an adjunct instructor for the Belin-Blank Center.

Board Members

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. Most recently, Catherine became co-leader of Mercy Medical Center’s Hospital Auxiliary.

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.

Stacy Campbell is the current K-4 ELP Coordinator/Teacher for the Monticello Community School District.  During her time in this position, she has molded a program that promotes appropriate learning opportunities in the general education setting for gifted students.  She works closely with classroom teachers to differentiate tasks in order to provide challenging and engaging activities and assessments.  She is also the PLTW-Launch Lead Teacher for the elementary schools in the district as well as the Elementary AIW Lead Teacher.  Stacy has her degree in Elementary Education, her Reading Endorsement, and her TAG Endorsement.  Currently, she is participating in a cohort through the University of Northern Iowa to receive her Master’s in Instructional Technology.  Personally, Stacy lives outside Center Junction with her husband and 3 children.  She spends her free time cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals, listening to music, and traveling as much as possible. 

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.  In addition to working with Roosevelt’s Professional Learning Communities, the School Leadership Team, the district’s SRG Task Force, and the district’s High School Leadership Team, Casey also serves as a PLC Facilitator for Secondary GT Consultants. She is starting her 31st year in education and her 8th 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!

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 works with the district to define TAG policies, advocates for Gifted Personalized Education Plans (PEPs) and higher level classes and acceleration, supports preschool-2nd grade identification, and strongly encourages support groups for the social and emotional needs of gifted, as she knows multiple families grieving gifted suicide and others struggling with twice exceptional challenges.  To better understand the issues and needs of the gifted, she has attended many state and national TAG conferences and is currently chair of the ITAG parent committee and member of NAGC.  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 high school robotics team, leads a 4-H club, started  summer STEM camps and a Girls Who Code club in Fairfield, is chair of missions at church, manages an online site for gifted education, and is a planning consultant and grant writer.  As a mother of four ranging from a 15 year old high school senior finishing two college degrees to a 5 month old, she has a vested interest in all levels of education and understanding of multiple avenues of meeting gifted educational needs.

Michelle Kavars 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.

Debra Mishak, PhD is a professor of teacher education at Winona State University, and runs a private consulting/coaching practice for gifted, talented and creative teens and adults in Central Iowa.  Previously Debra 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 educational 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 professional school counselor, and a secondary choral director.  Debra consults regionally, nationally and internationally on the social and emotional challenges of the gifted, career development for gifted teens and adults, talent development of indigenous, refugee and immigrant children, and educator well-being.  Debra loves traveling, cooking, singing in a semi-professional choir and gardening.

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.

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 continues her role 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!”

Sara St. John teaches English at Winterset High School.  She has also coordinated talented and gifted programs at the secondary level in Madrid, Keokuk, and Burlington.  She is in her fifteenth year of teaching. 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 and 2015 ITAG conferences and was a member of the 2011 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 is chair of the ITAG communication committee and edits ITAG newsletter. Personally, Sara is married to a fellow education nerd, Corey St. John, and mother to two very active little girls. In her bits of spare time, she likes to refurbish furniture, try new recipes, listen to NPR, and chase her busy children.

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 volunteer  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 5th year at North High School and his 26th 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 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. Currently, she is working towards 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.

Linda Zachar believes that appropriately challenging our gifted children is essential to the future of Iowa’s economy; because of this, she was appointed by Governor Branstad to be a voice for gifted children on the Southeast Iowa Advisory Board to the Governor’s STEM Council.  She currently focuses her advocacy efforts on using technology to provide differentiation of math instruction in the early elementary grades, so that the ease of implementation and rapid results will prove the case for differentiation across all subjects. Linda received a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an M.B.A. from the University of Iowa.  She became a reluctant homeschooler after she and her husband, Jim, were unable to find a school to meet the needs of their profoundly-gifted first grader. She currently homeschools her two sons in Cedar Rapids and is a partner in a 20+ unit restaurant franchise. You may contact


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.