Hi, my name is Matt Ballman. This will be my 8th year of teaching. I’ve taught at Willard for all eight of those years! I love Willard. I believe that we have the best teachers and students. I’ve taught 2nd and 3rd grade but I am currently a k-5 academic interventionist. I love my job as an interventionist because I am able to work with students from all grades and have the chance to make an impact on many students!
I graduated from Iowa State in 2015 with a degree in Elementary Education. I graduated from Drake University in 2020 with a Masters in Effective Teaching in Urban Education.
When I’m not at school I love spending time with my family. Last year, my wife and I welcomed our first child. We also have two dogs at home. I am a huge Iowa State fan and love to watch my Cyclones!
I am very fortunate to be teaching orchestra at several elementary schools in Des Moines. I have been teaching since 1990, and in Des Moines Schools since 2000. I have had a diverse career of teaching band, choir and orchestra at levels ranging from fourth through twelfth grade.
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 also received my master’s degree in education from Drake University. This will be my seventh year teaching, sixth year at Willard and second 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!
I am so fortunate to be starting my fourth year as the music teacher here at Willard! I graduated from Luther College in 2019 with a degree in Music Education. When I’m not teaching, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, and taking my dog for lots of walks!
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Simpson College. This year I will be starting my fifth year here at Willard. Outside of school I enjoy golfing, being outside, and spending time with my wife and 2 kids.
Lea Ann DeLeon
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!
My first day at Willard Elementary started in August of 2012 and I left in the spring of 2018, I am super excited to come back! I am currently a behavior strategist. When I am not at Willard I am spending time with my family. My husband and I have three kids who keep us very busy. I am so excited to be a wildcat (again).
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a Literacy Endorsement from the University of Northern Iowa and this will be my 9th 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 third 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’m so excited for my third 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 focus in Special Education. Outside of school I love working out, reading, collecting plants, and spending time with family and friends. I am passionate about teaching and I consider my class a family where all students are loved, celebrated, and encouraged to do their best. It’s going to be a great year!
Welcome to First Grade! My name is Mrs. Tabibi. This is my twenty-fourth year of teaching and my ninth 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!
Hilary Van Erem
Hi, I’m Hilary Van Erem! This is my 9th 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 where I received my BS in Elementary Education with a Reading Endorsement so I could pursue my true passion of teaching children. I was born and raised in Humboldt and now reside in Ankeny with my husband, Nick, and our two kids, Pearl (7) and Eddie (4). They keep us busy and on our toes! We like to read, go to the park, watch movies, spend time with family, and play sports. I love working at Willard for so many reasons, mainly the students and staff. The kids are amazing and we love what we do here. 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!