Hello, my name is Miren Abalia. I graduated from English Linguistics in the University of Deusto, in Bilbao, the North of Spain. I have been teaching / working since 2007, and this will be my 2nd year at McCombs. I’m teaching here because of a special program called “Visiting Teachers” where the Spanish Department of Education and the Iowan Department of Education are collaborating together.
“You never fail until you stop trying.” by Albert Einstein
Hello, my name is Andrea Aylsworth. I went to Iowa State University for my undergrad and Morningside for my masters. I have been teaching since 2001.
A quote I like is: “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones-the ones at home.” – Mother Teresa
Welcome to McCombs! I am Andrea Bagby the 7th grade Math Strategist. This is my 17th year with DMPS and 8th year as a McCombs Eagle. I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a History degree and obtained my Master’s from Drake University. I live just outside of Des Moines with my husband and three girls. We enjoy hanging out on porch with our dogs and cat. I am so excited to work with each and every one of our students and am striving to make McCombs the #1 Middle School in Des Moines!
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Grandview College. I went on to earn my Master’s degree in education from Morningside College. I have been teaching special education at McCombs since 1998. I have taught in both 6th and 8th grades. When I am not teaching I enjoy spending time with my husband and children.
Hello, my name is Derek Buyck. I went to University of Northern Iowa, and I started teaching in 2007.
“Look closely at the present you are constructing. It should look like the future you are dreaming.” – Alice Walker
I graduated from Drake University with a Bachelor’s in Radio/TV production and a Bachelor’s in Political Science and I returned to Drake for my Master’s in Teaching with endorsements in ESL and Journalism. I first joined DMPS in 2015 as a substitute teacher and became an official teacher in 2017. I love working for McCombs and getting to all of my students across all grades. In my free time I enjoy traveling to new countries and cities in the US. I’m very adventurous and am always looking for a new thrill!
In 2005, I graduated from Simpson College with a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and History. I taught History for 4 years at a private school in Ankeny. I then began work on Special Education endorsements at Upper Iowa University and began my career with the Des Moines Public Schools. I started at McCombs in 2011. I now teach in the Structured Learning Program. I have endorsements in Intellectual Disabilities and Work Experience Coordination. I have found my niche with kiddos who are on the Autism Spectrum or have Intellectual Disabilities! They are a source of joy, frustration, laughter and fun for me!
I am from the South Side and an alumni of Lincoln High, class of 2000! I have one daughter, Stella, who goes to Jefferson Elementary. I love spending time with her, watching Iowa Football games, and cooking! I also have two dachshunds who enjoy barking, digging and racing around the house!
Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions regarding your student in the program or McCombs! I look forward to working with you both!
I went to San Diego State University for my Bachelors degree and National University for my Masters degree. I have been teaching since 2003 in California, Virginia, and now Iowa. I moved to Iowa and joined DMPS in 2017. I love living in Iowa. I have two sons, age 14 and 21, two dogs, and pet chickens.
Hi, my name is Joy Erzinger and I am a school counselor and behavior strategist. I grew up in Texas and graduated from The University of Texas (hook ’em horns) with my undergraduate degree in Business Administration in 2009. After graduating, I moved to Kansas City to teach 6th grade math for a few years. During that time, I earned my Master’s in Education from Rockhurst College. I realized that if my students knew all the math in the world, but weren’t doing well in their hearts and souls, it would not be good for them. So, I went back to school at New York University to earn my Master’s in Applied Psychology. I have been working at McCombs since 2015 as a school counselor, Title I math teacher, AVID Coordinator and behavior strategist. I love what I do!
My favorite quote is from the Bible in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.” It reminds me that I am loved first and foremost by Jesus and because of that, I can love and care for others.
My name is Sarah Friedrich. I graduated from Bradley University with a degree in Elementary Education (Reading and LA endorsements). I got my Master’s Degree in Effective Teaching, Leading, and Learning (emphasis on Reading Instruction) from Drake University. Since 2003, I have been teaching here at McCombs- all grade levels Reading and Language Arts and 6th grade Science. I am currently an instructional coach, working with teachers to meet student needs and improve achievement. I’m looking forward to an excellent school year!
I love quotes, but my current favorite is “Be a Voice; Not an Echo.”
Hello, my name is Monique Funk. I went to Iowa State University for my undergraduate work and Drake University for my Masters work. I have been teaching since 2017, this is my third year. Prior to that I subbed for six years for the Des Moines Public Schools.
A quote I like… “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve the beauty.” – Maya Angelou
Hello, my name is Diana Givens and I have been an art teacher with DMPS since 2002. I graduated from Iowa State University with degrees in Visual Studies and Art Education.
My favorite quote is, “Imagination is more important than knowledge” by Albert Einstein.
Hello, my name is Caitlyn Gruening. I graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Elementary Education with mathematics and reading endorsements. I started my teaching career at McCombs, my first school, in 2018.
A favorite quote of mine is “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.”. – Author unknown
Hello, my name is Orli Gubani. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and History and my Master’s degree in Language Teaching at Tel Aviv University. I have been teaching since I graduated in 1998. When home, I love to cook and listen to music.
A quote I like “If you will it, it is no dream” by Theodor Herzl.
I am a graduate of Grandview University with degrees in Applied Mathematics and Secondary Education. I have been teaching in Des Moines since 2014. I joined the McCombs team in 2015 teaching 8th grade mathematics and Algebra 1. Outside of school I enjoy doing things with my family and coaching.
I earned my bachelor’s degree in education from Iowa State University and my master’s degree in education from Morningside College. I have been teaching at McCombs Middle School since 2004. I grew up on the south side of Des Moines, graduated from Lincoln High School, and still live in the south side community! When I’m not teaching, I love to spend time with my family. I look forward to working with you and your child.
Hello, my name is Tammi Johnson. I graduated from _Central University of Iowa, and Wayne State. I have been teaching / working since 1990.
My favorite quote is: “It seems that we learn lessons when we least expect them, but always when we need them the most. The true gift in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.”
Hello! My name is Abby Jones. I studied Elementary Education at Graceland University and am currently obtaining my Master’s degree from Morningside College. I started in the DMPS district as a Special Education associate in 2014 and have been teaching Behavior Disorder here at McCombs since 2018. I am so excited to work with you this year!
My favorite quote is “progress, not perfection”.
Hello, my name is Maureen Kennedy. I went to Northwest Missouri State University. I have been working with students since 1991.
A quote I like is: “Nothing changes is nothing changes.”
Hello, my name is Raechel Kinney. I went to Iowa State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Elementary Education. This will be my second year teaching.
My favorite quote is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Simpson College. I went on to earn my Master’s degree in Education from Drake University. I have been teaching at McCombs since 2011 . I have taught both 7th and 8th grade Reading and Language Arts. When I am not teaching I enjoy spending time with my family.
Hello, my name is Mrs. Leveke. I went to The University of Northern Iowa. I have been teaching since 2004.
A quote I like is “Challenges are what make life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
Hello, my name is Johanna MacKenzie. I graduated from Simpson College with a BA in French and secondary teaching endorsements in French and English. I graduated from Drake University with a MS Ed with a K-12 endorsement in Gifted and Talented Education. I have been teaching since 2004.
My favorite quote is “Education is not a filling of a vessel, but a lighting of a flame” by Socrates.
Hello, my name is Diana Marron. I went to both Iowa State University to get my bachelor’s degree and Grandview University to add my reading and special education endorsements. I started teaching in November of 1999.
My favorite quote is “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” ― Lao Tzu
Hi there! My name is Bre Maxwell and I teach 6th grade Special Education. I graduated from Iowa State University with my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and received my Master’s in Education Leadership from Drake University. I have been teaching since 2013, and have been a part of the McComb’s community since 2018. Outside of school, I love the performing arts, being outdoors, and spending time with my family. I’m excited to get to know you and your family!
Hello, my name is Beverley McPherson. My native country is Jamaica. I received my Master of Education from Buena Vista University majoring in Effective Teaching and Instructional Leadership. I graduated from College of Arts Science and Education with my degree in Elementary Education. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of West Indies with Majoring History and Economics. I have been teaching for over 18 years, six of these years at McCombs Middle School.
My favorite quote is, “Be willing to stand out, speak up and be different. Be the Light.” by Russell M .Nelson
I earned my bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Nebraska. I’ve been teaching at McCombs Middle School since 2011. I teach science and math. I serve as an advisor to Student Council. I also coach soccer and volleyball. In my spare time I enjoy traveling, reading, and attending sporting events.
A quote I really like is “You will gain more knowledge and success by taking action than you ever will doing nothing.” – Danny Yann
Hello, my name is Dusten Metz. I graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma. I have been teaching since 2014.
Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory- General George S. Patton
Hello, my name is Leah Mills. I graduated from Iowa State University and Simpson College. I have been teaching / working since 2018.
My favorite quote is “I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars,” by Og Mandino
Hello, My name is Andria Nelson. I went to Iowa State University, Upper Iowa University, and Buena Vista University. I have been teaching since 2012.
A quote I like… “Every student can learn. Just not on the same day or in the same way.”
Hi! My name is Tammy Nilsen. I grew up in Fort Dodge where I graduated from Fort Dodge Senior High and Iowa Central Community College with my associate’s degree. I then moved to Ames where I earned my bachelor’s degree in education from Iowa State University in December of 2010. I have been teaching at McCombs Middle School since 2012. I am married with two kids. When I’m not teaching, I love to spend time with my family. I look forward to working with you and your child.
I am a graduate of Drake University with a Bachelor of Music Education degree with emphasis in percussion. I have enjoyed teaching with DMPS since 2008 and have had the privilege to work with all grade levels of students in a variety of music focuses such as general, vocal, and instrumental music, as well as recording and music production. Outside of the classroom, I enjoy recording music for radio and television, writing and recording my own music, and spending time with my family.
Inside and outside of the workplace, I am working toward social justice by seeking to understand how to accept humanity in every facet possible. I’m actively against discrimination of all kinds, and I encourage those around me to show similar actions. I’m always open to learning how to be a more compassionate and accepting human being.
“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, ‘Wait on time.’” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hello, my name is Jennifer Overturf and I teach 7th grade Language Arts. I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Reading. I have been teaching since 2007, both at the middle and elementary school levels.
“Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.” – Bob Talbert
Hello, my name is Phil Parker. I graduated from Simpson College with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Management. I worked in the private and public sectors for several years and went back to Simpson College and obtained my teaching license and Master of Arts degree. This is my first year working at McCombs.
My favorite quote is “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell.
Bill Proctor has served in the Des Moines Public School system since 2001. Prior to McCombs Proctor worked as a Biology teacher, Science Bound Coordinator, Head Assistant Basketball coach, and Brother2Brother advisor at Hoover High School for 13 years. Before Hoover Mr. Proctor worked as a Biology/Chemistry teacher at S.E. Polk High School for 5 years while coaching basketball, football and track. He was also the Head Boys Basketball coach at Saydel High School for many years. Proctor’s first job started in Ft. Worth, Texas as a Biology/Chemistry teacher. He was also the Head Girls Basket basketball coach. Proctor Graduated from Upper Iowa University and is married to Lisa Proctor. He has three boys Jeran, Brees and Taylen. He also has two dogs Tex, and Sampson. Proctor resides in Johnston Iowa and is the Head Assistant Boys Basketball coach at Johnston High School. Proctor has gained experience teaching and coaching starting in 1997 and loves working with kids!
I am a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education. I have previously taught in the Waterloo and Southeast Polk districts as a chorus teacher. I was thrilled to join the McCombs team in 2016 and have greatly enjoyed working with the students here in Des Moines! I have three children and we all enjoy doing musical, artistic and adventurous activities together. I enjoy traveling when possible, doing puzzles, and watching American Idol and America’s Got Talent when I have time!
“Music is life, that’s why our hearts have beats.”
My name is Cortney Stover. I am one of three 6th grade science teachers. I have been teaching at McCombs since 2015. I received my bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University with a little help from a few DMACC courses. I am currently working on my master’s in urban education at Drake University.
A quote that really speaks to me as a teacher is from Henry Ford. He said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t. You’re right.”
I received my bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University in Family and Consumer Science with a mathematics emphasis in 1982 and my master’s degree in education in Viterbo in 1999. I have teaching in the Des Moines School District for 30 years and at McCombs for 28 years. My family consists of my husband, three grown children, a high school senior, and one grandchild. In my spare time, I enjoy gardening, reading, music, baking and sewing .
Growing up in rural Louisiana, I was not always sure what my future would be, but I knew that my elders always said that the key to unlocking whatever future I wanted was a good education. To this day, I believe that an excellent education can open doors of opportunity not typically afforded some. I believe that all students can learn, and that educators have the challenging but doable task of helping students maximize their potential-despite their circumstances
Since my start in education, I have worked with some of the toughest student populations. I have seen students suffer great losses. I have seen kids want to give up. But most important, I have seen kids persevere. In every setting, I have found that building relationships based on respect, trust, and faith in students yields the best results. I believe that excellence resides in everyone, and true education comes from self-discovery and serving others. I believe that every child DESERVES an excellent education.
BA: Speech Communication, emphasis on public speaking and interpersonal relationships
M.Ed.: Educational Leadership
Certifications: Master Educator, K-12 Principal/Supervisor, Biology, Chemistry, General Science
Interests: Transformational Leadership, School Turnaround, Self-Efficacy for All, Changing the World
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Gandhi
I have been teaching at McCombs since 1987 when I was Miss Buckley, teaching English, Media, Drama, Civics, Reading and Science along the way. I graduated from Drake University (undergraduate) and Loyola University (graduate). I have been teaching Science since 1995 and am currently teaching 8th grade Science. This year we will be studying lots of new concepts that will challenge and excite! I am married and have three children and two grandchildren. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling, reading, and working puzzles.
My favorite quote is “The choices we make shape our lives”.
A combination of physics (including energy, sound and light), environmental science, and genetics.
My name is Becky Victor-Baker. I graduated from Iowa State University. Go Cyclones!!! I have been teaching at McCombs since 1989. I am currently an 8th grade U.S. Social Studies teacher at McCombs. I have taught Reading or Social Studies at all grade levels since I have been at McCombs. I have 2 daughters. The oldest is married and the other will be getting married in 2020. I also support Central College where both my daughters attended. I enjoy traveling, country living, horses, dogs and cats plus spending time with family and watching my daughters dance. I enjoy teaching and learning new things each day. I look forward to meeting new students each year!!!
Favorite Quote: “Stay positive, powerful, Thankful and enjoy it.”
I earned my bachelor’s degree in education from University of Northern Iowa and I am currently working towards my master’s degree in leadership from the Buena Vista University. I have been at McCombs since 2007. When I am not teaching I enjoy spending time with my two children, Sarah and Robert, and husband Bob.