Hello! My name is Kate Badger. I’ve been employed as a 9-10 teacher at Downtown School since 2012, and my creative spirit couldn’t have found a better home.
I received my undergraduate degree (with an emphasis on Language Arts and a reading endorsement) from Iowa State University in 2003. I taught 5th and 6th grades in the Martensdale/St. Mary’s and West Des Moines school districts.
My passion is my family! My husband and I have two boys, Jacob and Ben (which means I have spent a lot of time rooting on sidelines!), and two well-loved, poorly-behaved dogs, Maisy and George. If you were to stop by my home on a random Sunday, you would most likely find me painting in my studio, reading a good book on my front porch swing (my happy place!), baking away in the kitchen, playing in my flower gardens, walking the pups, or strumming a clumsy tune on my ukulele.
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!”
Hello! My name is Erika Buckner. I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, and received my Master’s in Effective Teaching and Learning from Drake in 2009.
I started my career at The Downtown School in 2005, where I have been a 7-8 and 9-10 year old teacher, and an Instructional Coach. I also have experience as a Demonstration Teacher for the district as well as being a Trailblazer, working on integrating technology into the classroom and personalizing learning.
I love Project Based Learning and can’t imaging teaching any other way! It’s amazing to see the knowledge and independence in learning students gain throughout the process. I am passionate about the use of technology with students to further their understanding and personalize their learning experience. I also value building independent, reflective learners who are able to set goals and track their progress to see how much they are growing, taking charge of their learning!
Debra Croft is a University of Northern Iowa graduate, and holds a Master of Education in Collaborative Learning and Teaching for K-12 Educators from Graceland University. She has been teaching for 38 years, primarily as an interventionist. Her passions are family, educating children and exercise!
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!
I was born in Sparta, Wisconsin and lived in Wisconsin with my eight brothers and sisters until I was in eighth grade. My family relocated to Sioux City where I graduated from high school. I attended the University of Iowa and received a B.S. in Elementary Education. I am certified to teach kindergarten through sixth grade with an endorsement in mathematics. I have been teaching at the Downtown School since 1995.
My husband, Don Severs, and I have two wonderful sons and a beautiful daughter. My stepson, Quinn, is seventeen and is making decisions about his next phase in life…college! He attends Johnston High School where he is eleventh grade.
Our other two children are students here at the Downtown School! Our son, Tate, is nine and a member of Mrs. Burg’s Learning Group. He keeps us very busy! His hilarious comments keep us laughing! Macy is our budding artist. She loves to classes at the Des Moines Art Center. She is seven years old and she calls Mrs. Buckner’s classroom home during the school day. Her bright blue eyes and big hugs melt our hearts! We couldn’t imagine our lives without them!
Hello, my name is Barb Edwards and I’m so excited to be part of Downtown School! I’ve been an Iowan my whole life and even attended Des Moines Public Schools throughout my childhood.
I graduated from Upper Iowa University and received a BA in elementary education and a reading endorsement. Later, I graduated from Morningside College with my Master’s degree.
I’ve been with DMPS for over 20 years, and I’m thrilled to be at DTS this year.
My husband and I have two adult daughters and 4 wonderful grandchildren who we adore. We’ve also recently adopted a kitten named Snowball. Our family loves to camp, barbecue, and visit national and state parks. We all love the outdoors! I also have a passion for gardening. I grow lots of heirloom vegetables and flowers. You can always find me outside reading or gardening, it’s what I love!
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.
Hello! My name is Stephanie Hubka and I have been at the Downtown School since 2015. I have the great privilege of working with students in the 5, 6, and 7 year old learning groups. I received my degree in elementary education from Simpson College with endorsements in early childhood education and reading.
When I am not teaching, I love hanging out with my family and friends doing anything outside. I love watching the Iowa Hawkeyes especially during football season. If there is a game on of any kind, I am probably watching it. During the warmer months, I enjoy being out on the golf course trying to fine tune my golf game which is easier said than done!
I look forward to meeting you and working with your child. It will be a great year!
Click here to follow Ms. Hubka’s class on Facebook.
Hello! My name is Jennifer Jones. I have been teaching at the Downtown school for 8 years. In 2005, I graduated from Grand View University with a degree in Elementary Education and an endorsement in reading. After graduating, I subbed for 2 years, until I found my dream job as a kindergarten/first grade teacher at the Downtown School!
I live on a farm in Bondurant with my husband, Clint and our three children, Zoey, Cooper and Otto. In my spare time, I enjoy being outdoors and spending time with our families.
I love working with children and seeing them grow! I am a firm believer that students learn more by doing and teaching others. ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’ – Benjamin Franklin
Hi! I am Jeff Kerns. I have been teaching at the Downtown School since 2007. I have a Bachelor in Elementary Education from Grand View College and a Master’s degree in Effective Teaching and Learning from Drake University. I love spending time with my family. My wife and I have three children and seven grandchildren. I believe in giving back to the community. This is why educating children is a passion of mine. I also love to serve others that are less fortunate by participating in mission trips. Other hobbies of mine include collecting license plates and rocks, especially geodes.
Hello! My name is Barb Leise and I teach 5, 6, and 7 year old children at the Downtown School. I’ve been at this school since 1998. I’ve been teaching kindergarten, first grade or second grade since 1988. I love my job. Teaching is my passion.I believe in the research based practices and individualized instruction that is supported at the Downtown School. I feel fortunate to be here. I attended Iowa State University for my undergraduate degree and Drake University for my master’s. I am married and we have a chubby cat at home. I have 6 nieces and nephews who live in town. We are fortunate to get to be a close part of their lives.
Hello! My name is Jennifer Mann and I am a 9 and 10 year old teacher. I graduated from Saint Mary’s University many moons ago with a degree in biology. After volunteering for two years in the New Orleans school district, I returned to college to get my master’s degree in education. The majority of my teaching career has been spent in the Des Moines Public Schools. I left for a few years to teach in Rochester, Minnesota but missed friends and family so when the opportunity to return presented itself, we jumped at it.
My husband Brad and I have three great kids–two girls and a boy. Emily, Adam and Libby are all Downtown School alumni. We also have a dog named Odie who keeps us busy with lots of playing and walks.
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.
Hi there! I am Kayla Pippitt and I am thrilled to be part of the DTS 9/10 team. I am a proud Simpson College graduate, but I didn’t figure out my career path while I was there. After a year in the “real world,” I chose to return to school for my master’s in education inspired by many years of volunteering with kids. I started my teaching career in 2012 in Kansas City Public Schools and loved it, but my husband and I always wanted to return to Iowa. After we first moved, I spent three years at ISU as a program coordinator for a K-12 scholarship program before landing in Des Moines Public Schools.
In my free time I love to travel with my husband, Silas. We have a never-ending bucket list of places we want to visit. While we’re at home, we like exploring Des Moines. We enjoy the Civic Center, Farmer’s Market, Gray’s Lake, and Principal Park, just to name a few fun places.
Hello! Welcome to our 5 & 6 year old classroom!
I grew up in Western Iowa, in the small town of Pisgah. My elementary and early childhood education degrees are from the University of Iowa — Go Hawkeyes! In addition, I am a trained Reading Recovery Teacher and have my Master’s Degree as a K-12 Reading Specialist from Viterbo University. I have taught in Des Moines for over 20 years. My husband Kris and I have three teenagers; Evan at Iowa State, Sarah at Drake and Quinn at Waukee High School. Our family loves the Iowa and Chicago Cubs, my husband’s cooking, and reading. I am excited to join the Downtown School and am looking forward to a wonderful school year!
In 2011, I graduated from Upper Iowa University with a degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in Reading and Language Arts. I have been teaching at the Downtown School since 2013. In December of this year, I will graduate with a master’s in education from Drake University. I live on our family farm just outside of Carlisle with my husband Scott and our 6 children: 2 are in college, one is in the Air Force, one is in tech school and two still live at home. I love teaching and learning. I find them both very exciting. I hope my excitement and passion for learning carry over into our classroom. I am very excited to get to know you and your child.