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Trainings & Events

To achieve its goal of expanding access to high-quality afterschool programs, the Iowa Afterschool Alliance provides professional development and training to help improve and maintain the quality of programming available to children and families.

2022 Speaker Biographies

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Shannon McManus 

Shannon is an educator who strives to provide accessible and meaningful learning experiences for children and adults. She taught high school physics and integrated science for 8 years. 

She has designed and facilitated STEM professional development opportunities for youth workers and teachers serving students K-12 for over 10 years and served as the director of professional development at Engineering is Elementary at the Museum of Science, Boston. Shannon also works as an independent education consultant and part time as a Senior Professional Learning Developer at Penn State University’s Youth Engineering Solutions curricula. 

She received her bachelor’s degree in physics education from University of Delaware and her master’s degree in environmental science and management from University of Rhode Island. 

Karen Peterson 

Karen A. Peterson has over 25 years of experience in education as a classroom teacher, university instructor, teacher educator, program administrator, and researcher. Peterson is also Co-Principal Investigator for Leap into Science: Cultivating a National Network for Informal Science and Literacy, STEM Integration into Digital Forensics Science Learning, SciGirls Code: A National Connected Learning Model to Integrate STEM Learning with Middle School Girls, and Code: SciGirls! Media to Engage Girls in Computing Pathways. These projects have leveraged Karen’s expertise in STEM equity project development, effective national scale-up strategies, dissemination, and capacity building.  

Peterson serves on local and national boards that develop and administer programs designed to increase underrepresented students’ interests in STEM. She has served on the Board of Directors for True Child, an independent think tank that translates research and knowledge on the impact of gender stereotypes into a range of effective interventions, policies, and other resources for the organizations and policy makers. Peterson has published in The Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering and CBE Life Sciences Education, a journal published by the American Society for Cell Biology. She co-authored evaluation reports and promising practices reports in informal information technology education for girls for the National Center for Women & Information Technology. In 2013, Peterson was profiled in STEMConnector’s™ 100 Women Leaders in STEM publication. A graduate of the University of Washington, Bothell campus, her Master’s thesis focused on gendered attitudes towards computer use in education. 

Nicole Hanson

Nicole Hanson is the Iowa 4-H Clover Kids (K-3) Specialist. In this position, Nicole provides leadership in the statewide Clover Kids program including partnership development, educational product development, and professional development for staff and volunteers implementing K-3 curricula. Nicole joined the Iowa 4-H team with over 10 years of experience coordinating out-of-school time programs in central Iowa.

Rebekah Domayer

Rebekah Domayer is an education program manager at the Iowa Children's Museum. She creates programming for school-age children which includes field trips, drop off programming, community outreach, and after-school programming. She specializes in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs and has a bachelor’s degree in Science Education.

Kamryn Ryan 

Kamryn Ryan is Volunteer Iowa’s Youth Service-Learning AmeriCorps VISTA. Her year of service began in August 2021. Since starting her year, she’s worked to advance service learning across the state by collaborating with volunteers through a youth service-learning stakeholder group consisting of afterschool programs, nonprofits, K-12 schools, and youth across the state. Her work has been focusing on addressing barriers related to youth service and providing resources to organizations to better assist them in creating service-learning opportunities. Volunteer Iowa partners with the Iowa Afterschool Alliance and Iowa Department of Human Rights in this work, and was recently awarded the 2022 Harris Wofford Common Good Award because of their exemplary work in removing barriers to youth service. 

Kayla Powell

Kayla is the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) and Youth Development Coordinator at the Iowa Department of Human Rights. In this position, Kayla primarily focuses on overseeing data collection on older youth in and transitioning from foster care, advancing youth engagement and positive youth development within state agencies and contributing to juvenile and criminal justice research activities using participatory models. Previously, Kayla oversaw after school programming for the Ottumwa YMCA and served on multiple national afterschool pilot programs and initiatives with the Y of the USA. Outside of this role, Kayla is a national and federal child welfare consultant, providing technical assistance to states as they seek to improve their authentic youth engagement and independent living services for older youth in foster care. Kayla has over 9 years of lived child welfare experience and 8 years of professional child welfare experience. 

Crystal Hall 

Crystal Hall is the Director of Community Based and Prevention Services at Tanager Place in Cedar Rapids. She joined the team in February of 2022 and oversees the BHIS (Behavioral Health Intervention Services), PIH (Pediatric Integrated Health) program, Autism and Social Skills Programs, and Freedom Schools. Hall has over 25 years' experience working with children and families and a strong background in out-of-school time programs. Hall believes that programming before school, after school, and in the summer is a vital component to a healthy community. 

Mikayla Oz 

Mikayla Oz is the 2022 Recipient of the International Rising Star of Magic Award and Founder of The Magician School; a National After School Program that started right here in Des Moines, Iowa. Mikayla saw a magician when she was 4 years old and it forever changed the directory of her life. Unknowingly at the time, Magic taught Mikayla communication, presentation, confidence, practice and critical thinking skills to create her own opportunities. Now Mikayla shares these same skills with students and educators all over the world. 

Kaitlin Schmidt 

Kaitlin Schmidt is the Director of Strategic Resources at St. Mark Youth Enrichment. Kaitlyn has 7 years of experience working all aspects of St. Mark from program implementation, event planning, and evaluation. She fell in love with the 6 Types of Working Genius Model and in October 2021 became certified instructors and integrated the model internally at St. Mark and with Danielle Willis, she began to share this work with their local community. 

Danielle Willis 

Danielle Willis is the Director of Early Childhood at St. Mark Youth Enrichment. Danielle has 7 years of experience working all aspects of St. Mark from program implementation, event planning, and evaluation. She fell in love with the 6 Types of Working Genius Model and in October 2021 became certified instructors and integrated the model internally at St. Mark and with Kaitlyn Schmidt, she began to share this work with their local community. 

Dave Welter 

David Welter recently retired from the Cedar Falls Community School District after serving a 40-year career in education. During that time, he taught social studies and was involved with baseball at the high school, college and professional levels while also serving as a Jr. High principal for 16 yrs. 

Coaching and educating young people have formed the core of Welter’s life over the years.  He established an After School program in 2000 with the help of a 21st Century Grant and that program has been self-sustaining for the past 18 years. He has been a passionate advocate for After School and Out of School Time programming having witnessed the positive impact it has had on student achievement and engagement over those years. 

Since retiring, Welter continues to scout for the Atlanta Braves, works as an education consultant, is involved in a number of community organizations, farms and enjoys precious time with his granddaughters. Welter has been inducted into the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame as well as being named Iowa’s Middle Level Principal of the Year. 

Vic Jaras 

Vic Jaras is a Community Education and Service-Learning Consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. He heads the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21CCLC) federal grant program in the state for before and after school programming that targets students in need. 21CCLC funding provides about six million dollars in funding for afterschool in Iowa. These centers provide a safe environment for children to overcome achievement gaps and become engaged in learning. Prior to his work at the Iowa Department of Education, Vic developed innovative afterschool and tutoring programs in Michigan, created a technology curriculum that was used by the Michigan Department of Education for state technology standards, and taught courses for Delta College, Great Lakes College, Davenport University, Saginaw Valley State University, and Miller College. 

Jessie Mireles 

Jessie holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Iowa State University in Child, Adult and Family Services and a dual Master’s Degree from the Erikson Institute in Chicago, Illinois in Child Development and Infant Studies and Assessment. She has been with Child Care Resource and Referral of Central Iowa for 14 years and has served as a Regional Child Care Consultant, ChildNet Consultant and for many years has been the Regional QRS Specialist and now IQ4K Specialist. She also serves as Vice President of the Iowa SIDS Foundation, serves on Iowa’s Child Death Review Team as well as Iowa’s Maternal and Child Health Advisory Council. She has a strong passion for helping early care and education programs achieve their quality rating goals. 

Mykala Beard (Micki) 

Mykala (Micki) Beard has been employed with the Department of Human Services for over 25 years and is currently the Quality Program Manager in the Child Care Bureau for the State of Iowa.  Prior to her current position, Mykala spent 13 years as a Social Work Supervisor with the Polk County Department of Human Services in Des Moines, Iowa, and 3 years as a direct line social worker in both Polk and Marion County Iowa. In her role as Quality Program Manager Micki oversees numerous statewide contracts focused on providing a multitude of services to children, families and child care providers throughout the state.  Micki is also charged with leading efforts focused on Iowa’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS),  spearheaded the state’s current QRIS re-design and re-branding into the Iowa Quality for Kids (IQ4K) program and leads the IQ4K Oversight Team. 

Peter Komendowski 

Peter is one of Iowa’s leading advocates for healthy, drug-free communities.  In the face of the opioid epidemic, a resurgence of meth use, and a marijuana industry targeting Iowa youth he is a sought-after speaker as an expert in substance abuse prevention and high-risk behavior management.  

Peter serves as president of The Partnership for A Healthy Iowa and the Face It Together (PDFI/FIT) coalition, and co-director of the Iowa Digital Literacy & Wellness Project.  He succeeded Senator Grassley as Chair of Face It Together Coalition’s healthy communities’ initiative, which still stands to this day as the oldest statewide coalition of substance abuse prevention resources in Iowa.   

Peter travels throughout Iowa coordinating projects including the Iowa Media Literacy Project, Take5Iowa, the Drug-Free Workplace Program, Speak Out 4 Kids, the Power of Grandparents, the Blueprint for Healthy Communities, and the Iowa Caring Communities Tour. He was invited by Mediacom to host the TV series, Children & Drugs: Secrets for Parents, which aired eight episodes in 2013.  Building on that success he was invited back to host the TV show Surviving Bad, now in its 9th year on the air.   

Peter is the co-founder of the Internationally renowned Iowa Digital Literacy & Wellness Conference, and as a writer and a speaker, has been entertaining audiences of all ages with his observations on “living in the digital world – life at the speed of human.” He also speaks to children and adults, on topics ranging from “How Substance Abuse, Media and other Addictive Behaviors Impact Your Bottom Line,” "A Mindful Approach to the Media - Knowing the Tricks & Traps," to "Rebuilding America from the Inside Out."  He has enjoyed a healthy dose of media exposure, has been a TEDx speaker, and is often aired on Iowa radio and TV stations as a subject matter expert on substance abuse, prevention, and youth high risk behaviors.  

Jodi Miller 

Jodi began her work with Kid-Grit several years ago but her journey with afterschool did not begin there. This will be Jodi’s 15th year managing a school-based afterschool enrichment program that serves 1500 students every day. Through her experience with those students and program staff she gained a passion for social emotional learning and decided to expand her knowledge in that area by becoming a kid-grit ambassador. Jodi loves sharing her experiences and knowledge with others in the out-of-school time field. 

Hillary Jones 

Hillary Jones is an Education Specialist for the US Department of Education’s Youth for Youth (Y4Y) Team. Hillary provides training and technical assistance to out-of-school time programs. Hillary’s career began as a teacher of Spanish, language arts, and literacy, before transitioning into the afterschool space.  Hillary has worked as a Day Camp Supervisor and served as an Education Manager and Senior Program Manager for the Salvation Army, where she provided training and professional development to staff on a local and regional level.  Hillary holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a Teaching Certification and a master’s degree in Education and Human Development from George Washington University. 

Yana List 

As an Education Specialist for the US Department of Education’s Youth for Youth (Y4Y) Team, Yana provides training and technical assistance to 21st CCLC programs. Yana’s background is in science education; she spent four years teaching high school biology and chemistry, in addition to crafting a science curriculum and providing supplementary professional development in her role as curriculum specialist. Yana previously worked in support of out-of-school time during the summer months. Yana earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Education from Swarthmore College and a master’s degree in Curriculum Development from Ball State University. 

Teagan Roberts

Teagan grew up in Ames, IA teaching dance and exploring the native habitats that the area provided. She earned her BS in Environmental Science and Animal Ecology with an emphasis in interpretation. Education has always been at the forefront of her interests. After a seasonal position at Blank Park Zoo, Teagan joined the Education Team in 2019. She now leads a variety of programs including, but not limited to, Safari Camps, Early Childhood Classes, and subscription STEM Box program. 

Jessica Schellhorn

Jessica Schellhorn is the Education Manager at Blank Park Zoo. She has been at the Zoo for 8 years leading and developing programs for audiences of all ages and sizes. She is also a Connecting to Nature Lead for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Along with other Connecting Nature Leads at AZA, she works to create tools and resources for other zoo and aquarium educators to develop and improve nature programming at their facilities.

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