7-8 Year Old Team

Marja Bearda

Marja Bearda

7/8 Year Old Teacher

E: marja.bearda@dmschools.org

Biography

Hello, my name is Marja Bearda. I have been at the Downtown School since 2017. I love it here! It really is a very special place to work!

I taught elementary in Wisconsin for twelve years prior to moving to Iowa in 2016. I received my two undergraduate degrees from UW-Madison and studied insects and elementary education and later obtained my Master's from Viterbo. I love teaching my students about science, other cultures and art. I would like to be known as the "bug lady."

My family is multicultural. I am originally from The Netherlands and my husband is from Chile. We have two wonderful children who attend the Downtown School. In our spare time we enjoy: visiting family abroad, traveling, swimming, camping and renovating our old house.

It is my mission to teach children to be kind to one another, care for our Earth, and to travel and see the world because, "Travel opens your mind as few other things do!"

Hannah Bankson

Hannah Daniel

7/8 Year Old Teacher

E: hannah.daniel@dmschools.org

Biography

Hello! My name is Hannah Daniel and I am a member of the 7 and 8 year old team! I graduated from Iowa State University in 2017 with specializations in English/language arts, reading, and learning technologies. Prior to graduation, I spent time teaching in Alexandra, New Zealand and the Quad City area.

I am originally from Bettendorf, Iowa, where I graduated from high school and developed my love of education from my mother. Here in Des Moines, my husband and I love to volunteer, travel, and cook! We have two lovable kittens, Nelson and Nash, who are always wanting to be snuggled!

Mollie Erpelding

Mollie Erpelding

7/8 Year Old Teacher

E: mollie.erpelding@dmschools.org

Rachelle Gerstel

7/8 Year Old Teacher

E: rachelle.gerstel@dmschools.org

Biography

Hello! My name is Rachelle Gerstel and I welcome you to my 7/8 year old classroom! I have been with the Downtown School since 2010. Before coming here, I taught first, second, and third grades for the San Bernardino City Unified School District in San Bernardino, CA for eight years. We then moved back to the Des Moines area where I had the opportunity to teach at the Downtown School. I attended Upper Iowa University and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in Reading and English Language Arts.

I am passionate about my family, always trying to keep them happy and organized. I have a wonderful husband and two boys who have attended the Downtown School with me. I enjoy watching my kids grow and try new things as they begin to mature in life. When I get a chance I like to work outside in our flower garden, read a good book, and bake for my family. School is another passion of mine. I have realized throughout the years that students learn more when they feel supported, and comfortable in their environment. I like to create an inviting environment for students, parents, and other community members that may visit our school.

Bruce Miller

7/8 Year Old Teacher

E: Bruce.Miller01@dmschools.org

Biography

Hello!  I am excited to be a part of the Downtown School!  I love the philosophy here and can’t wait to start our next project!  I moved to Iowa in August, 2012 from Virginia Beach, Virginia with my wife, Morgan, to be closer to family in Fairfield, Iowa. This is my 7th year teaching elementary school.  I graduated from Old Dominion University in 2006 with my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.  It is truly awesome to watch a child learn, grow and be in control of their learning.