Hi, my name is Matt Ballman. This will be my third year in education and my second year in second grade! I attended Iowa State University (Go Cyclones!!!) and graduated in 2015 with a degree in elementary education with endorsements in history, social studies, reading, and coaching. I believe that Willard is a very special place. We have an amazing staff that puts students first and we have great families in the community! When I’m not teaching, I love to travel, watch (and attend) Iowa State sporting events, and hang out with my dog, Trice!
Welcome to fourth grade! My name is Mrs. Burns and I am one of the 4th grade teachers here at Willard Elementary. I received my elementary education degree from Iowa State University, Go Cyclones! I am currently working on getting my masters degree from Drake University. This will be my sixth year teaching, fifth year at Willard and first year teaching 4th grade. When not teaching I enjoy spending time with my husband, family, friends, reading, and exercising. I look forward to another wonderful year of working with all of the students, families, and staff here at Willard!
Hello! I am Brittanee Grove and this will be my 5th year teaching at Willard. I have been a Willard Wildcat my entire teaching career! I am getting married this October so I will become Mrs. Chelleen. I love to read, be outside, and watch the Cubs play baseball!
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Simpson College. This year I will be starting my second year here at Willard. Outside of school I enjoy golfing, being outside, and spending time with my family and friends.
I graduated from Luther College with a degree in music education, and I am so thrilled to be starting my first year of teaching at Willard! In my free time I enjoy being outside, spending time with friends and family, and exploring Des Moines!
Hello and welcome to Mrs. Dorgan’s first grade classroom! I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa – Go Panthers! When I am not in the classroom, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, shopping and biking the trails around Des Moines.
I love teaching at Willard Elementary because of the amazing staff, students and families. Teaching is such a wonderful responsibility – I truly love what I do! I am incredibly excited to begin this school year with my first grade students!
Hi! My name is Tina Fulton. I have been teaching for over 30 years – in the classroom as a Preschool and 2nd Grade Teacher, and out of the classroom as a Reading Recovery Teacher and Title I Interventionist. I received my BA Degree in Education from the University of Northern Iowa and my Masters Degree from Viterbo University. I also hold endorsements in Early Childhood Education and Reading and am trained in Reading Recovery. As you might guess, kids and reading are my passions!
When not at school, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, walking my 2 sweet dogs, traveling, cheering on my favorite sports teams and reading, of course!
Hello! My name is Joanna Hammond. This will be my second year at Willard teaching Special Education. I graduated from Western Governors University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education and Elementary Education. When I am not working, I enjoy being with my family and exploring the great outdoors. I am looking forward to a great year at Willard!
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a Literacy Endorsement from the University of Northern Iowa and this will be my 7th year teaching at Willard. Willard is an amazing place for students to grow and I am very fortunate to be a part of the amazing staff. Outside of school I enjoy spending time with my husband and two sons. We enjoy spending time with our families, watching the Royals, and going on family bike rides.
Hello from Room 207! My name is Katie Neal, and this will be my 9th year at Willard. I have taught 1st grade for 8 of those years, and this will be my first year in 2nd grade! I attended the University of Northern Iowa. (Go Panthers!) When I am not teaching, I love traveling to see my sister in Oregon, reading, and spending time with family. I am looking forward to another great year at Willard Elementary!
Hello and welcome to 5th grade! My name is Mrs. Rathe and I am excited to begin my second year in 5th grade at Willard. Willard is such a special school and 5th grade has a sweet spot in my heart. I graduated from the University of Iowa in May 2020 where I received my BA in Elementary Education with endorsements in Reading and English as a Second Language. I grew up in Ames, so I like to tell people that it is possible to cheer for both the Cyclones and the Hawkeyes! When I am not teaching, I enjoy running, cooking, reading, and spending time with my husband. 5th grade is going to be awesome this year!
Hello and welcome to kindergarten! My name is Miss Straw and I am incredibly excited for my second year at Willard! I graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in May 2020 where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Special Education. I grew up in Red Oak, IA and my amazing elementary teachers inspired me to teach – this is my dream career! Outside of school I love exercising, collecting plants, and spending time with my family. My favorite part about working at Willard is the relationships that are built between students, families, and staff. I am looking forward to having a wonderful year with my kindergarteners in room 103!
Welcome to First Grade! My name is Mrs. Tabibi. This is my twenty-second year of teaching and my seventh year at Willard. I feel so lucky to work at Willard because of the wonderful staff and students! I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with degrees in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Go Panthers! Besides teaching, my loves include being with my family, reading, and shopping. I can’t wait to learn and grow with my firsties! We are going to have a great year together!
Welcome to the Peacemaker class!
My name is Sherry Thompkins and I am excited for my eighth year as a second grade teacher at Willard Elementary! I am in my 21st year of teaching and have experience as an
Aurally Handicapped and Special Education educator. As you can see I am passionate about teaching and learning! I also enjoy teaching a cooking class during 21st Century and some of my favorite recipes come from the Willard families and extended families! I am active in multiple leadership roles within our school and love opportunities to grow as a professional.
I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Elementary Education and Special Education with an emphasis in teaching deaf and hard of hearing students.
I later completed my Master’s Degree in Special Education, at Iowa State University.
When I’m not teaching, I enjoy spending time with my husband and adult children. I also enjoy walking, reading, and experimenting with new recipes. My favorite part about being a teacher is watching students become independent thinkers and team players. I love to watch students grow!
Welcome to 2nd grade! My name is Mrs. Tigges and this will be my 7th year teaching the wonderful students at Willard! I graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. I live in Des Moines with my husband and our two daughters. When I am not teaching, I love spending time with my family, watching ISU, and reading a great book.
I am so excited for another great year in 2nd grade! Willard truly has the BEST students and staff
Hi, I’m Hilary Van Erem! This will be my 8th year at Willard. I’ve taught kindergarten, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade! I attended the University of Northern Iowa where I received my BA in Marketing then attended Iowa State University a few years later to pursue my true passion, teaching, and received my BS in Elementary Education with a Reading Endorsement. I was born and raised in Humboldt and now reside in Ankeny with my husband, Nick, and our two kids, Pearl (6) and Eddie (3). They keep us busy and on our toes! We like to read, go to the park, watch movies, spend time with family, and be outside. I love working at Willard for so many reasons, mainly the students and staff. We love what we do and the kids are amazing. I can’t wait to make this the best year yet!
My name is Julie Vitek and I have been a teacher at Willard Elementary since 2012. I have been teaching for Des Moines Public Schools since 1991. I graduated from Upper Iowa University and earned my master’s degree from Viterbo University. I have a reading endorsement as well as an ELL endorsement. Before coming to Willard I taught second, third, fourth grades, title reading, and reading recovery. I have a passion for beginning readers! I enjoy laying the foundation to help ALL students succeed and watch them grow from being a non-reader to a reader! My husband and I live in Altoona with our two children, Connor and Jenna, and our dog Ella.
My husband and I live in Altoona. We have been blessed with four intelligent, beautiful daughters, four amazing sons-in-law, and four adorable, energetic grandchildren. I love bike riding, swimming, walking, traveling, and spending time with my family!
Welcome to Third Grade! My name is Chelsey Wierson and I graduated from Iowa State University in May of 2013 with my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary education. In addition I received my master’s degree from Viterbo University in Educational Leadership in May of 2017. This fall will be the start of my 7th year at Willard Elementary. I have one daughter named Ella, who just turned 2 last march. We like to play at the pool, go for walks, and listen to music.
Hi! My name is Skylar Yates. I am excited to welcome you to 5th grade! I can’t wait to begin my first year of teaching at Willard! I grew up on the east side of Des Moines and completed my K-12 schooling in the DMPS district. I graduated from Iowa State University, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in English as a Second Language and Reading. Outside of school, I love spending time with my dog, exercising, reading, and enjoying time with family and friends. I look forward to a great year in room 308!