Hello! I am Mirela Abild. I am the office manager at Lovejoy. I was born and raised in Bosnia, where I lived until the summer of 2000. Having made the decision to move to the United States, my parents and I settled in Des Moines. Living in the United States has given me the opportunity to grow and develop, both personally and professionally. I am fortunate to have parents who have professed strong cultural and moral ideology that has carried on throughout my life. I am currently pursuing my teaching degree at Drake University with continued support of my family and friends. I am married to my husband Zach, and we have two girls and two boys!
My name is Kerry Biondi-Morlan and I am the speech language pathologist that serves Lovejoy Elementary School. I was born and raised on the southside of Des Moines. I attended Granger (now South Union, Weeks and Lincoln ‘91). I went to the University of Northern Iowa and received by B.A. in communicative disorders in 1995, and my M.A., in speech language pathology in 1997. I used to work at Mercy Hospital, and have worked for DMPS since 2001.
My husband and I live on the southside with our three teenage children. I enjoy walking and reading. I am a cofounder of a non-profit organization that employees five people.
I love being a part of the Lovejoy team and supporting students to help them increase their communication skills.
My name is Heather Bittner, and I am so glad to be at Lovejoy! I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa and got my Master’s Degree from Viterbo University. I have taught fourth grade, first grade, kindergarten, reading, and talented and gifted. I enjoy spending time with my husband, two children, and my dog. I like to read, travel, shop, and go to movies. I love seeing students’ smiling faces and watching them grow and learn each year!
My name is Kelsey Burgess. I started my teaching career in 2019 at Lovejoy in special education and am so excited to be here this year as well!
I worked as a special education associate before going back to school at Iowa State. I graduated in the spring of 2019 in Elementary Education with endorsements in social studies and special education.
When I am not at school, I am enjoying time with my dog Louie, reading, or bingeing on Netflix!
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it was stupid.” – Albert Einstein
I am so happy to be at Lovejoy! This is my second year as Associate Principal and I am loving all of the opportunities to work with teachers, students and families. Prior to being at Lovejoy, I was at Carver Elementary as a Special Education Consultant and Dean of Students. I started my teaching career at Park Avenue Elementary in 2007 as a Special Education teacher. I went to the University of Northern Iowa and received my degree in Elementary Education and Special Education. I received my master’s in Educational Leadership from Viterbo University in 2012.
I enjoy spending time with family, going to the lake, camping, spending time outdoors and reading. I live in Monroe with my husband Zac, and two children, Owen (4) and Ella (1.5), and our golden retriever, Saleen.
Hello! My name is Lori Craig. I have been a special ed. para-educator for Des Moines Public Schools since 2000. I truly enjoy working with students that need extra support. I am married and have two daughters that have graduated from Lincoln High School. I enjoy riding my Harley, flower gardening, and hanging out with my family.
I love working at Lovejoy! This is my 7th year working at Lovejoy as an instructional coach. I enjoy the opportunities I have to work with students and staff every day. Prior to working at Lovejoy, I spent 20 years teaching middle school students. I have taught all four academic subjects in three different school districts including spending three years teaching math and science to ELL students for Des Moines Public Schools.
I graduated from Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, IA with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in history and reading. I hold a Master’s Degree in Effective Teaching, Learning and Leadership and Specialist’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Drake University.
I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children. I like to read, shop, and play games with my family. I love watching students eyes light up when they learn something new!
My name is Logan Hemphill and this is my first year at Lovejoy Elementary! I am a Behavior Disorders Special Education Teacher. I graduated from Iowa State University with my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education with endorsements in Special Education (Strat I) and Reading. I also have a minor in Learning Technologies. I enjoy spending time outside, learning new things, video and board games, and hanging out with my cats. I am an LGBTQ+ educator and I am passionate about urban education and anti-racism in our school community. Let’s have an amazing year!
I have been with the Des Moines Public Schools since 2007. This is my seventh year at Lovejoy. I am currently serving as a reading/math interventionist. Lovejoy is such a great place to be! I knew instantly that I would love working at Lovejoy because the sign on the door read, “Welcome to Lovejoy—where we foster the Love of Learning and the Joy of Friends.” I graduated from Grand View University with my BA in Elementary Education and from Viterbo University with my MA in Curriculum and Instruction.
As a child, I always wanted to grow up and become a teacher so I feel very lucky my dream came true. My favorite quote is “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Outside of school, I love spending time with my husband and two boys as well as our dog Murphy, traveling, reading, watching movies, and shopping.
I was born and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I went to Graceland University, which is what brought me to Iowa, and I have since called this state my home. This is my first year at Lovejoy, and I am extremely excited to be here! I previously taught at Ruby Van Meter School as a Special Education teacher. I am a firm believer that every child can learn, and I will work hard to create an environment where each child can be successful. In my classroom, children will be engaged in a positive environment with the expectation that everyone will try their very best in preparation of becoming uplifting members of the community. I love to be in the classroom, but while I am away, I love to spend time with my newborn son and husband, read books, redo furniture, and make desserts.
“Teachers who love teaching teach children to love learning.” -Robert John Meehan
Hello! My name is Kayla McNew and this is my seventh year at Lovejoy Elementary. I graduated from Iowa State University in 2014 with my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in Special Education and Coaching. I received my Master’s Degree in Cultural Proficiency Leadership Instruction from Drake University in December of 2019. When I am not at school, I enjoy spending time with my daughter Maizie, my husband Aaron and my dog Ozzy. I am very excited to be at Lovejoy again this year!
Hello, students, families, and Lovejoy community! My name is Brandi Otto, new principal of Lovejoy Elementary. I grew up in the Des Moines area and attended all Des Moines Public Schools, graduating from East High School in 1994. I started my career over twenty years ago as a Special Education associate at Studebaker Elementary. After completing my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at Grand View University, I was hired at Morris Elementary School where I served as a Special Education and 5th grade teacher. I went on to become a TLC Instructional Coach, 21st CCLC site director and a Released Dean at Garton Elementary School before accepting a position last year as Associate Principal at Moulton Elementary School. I have a master’s degree in Teacher Effectiveness and a specialist degree in Education from Drake University. I am so excited to be serving you and our community as Principal of Lovejoy Elementary.
I am married to my husband, Dave. In our blended family, we share four children, Addison (11 years old), Madelyn (15 years old), Jackson (16 years old) and Gabbi (17 years old). In our free time, we enjoy traveling (Okoboji is one of our favorite places in Iowa to visit) fishing, and spending time with our family and friends. During fall weekends, you can find me watching football, cheering on my son, Jackson’s high school team as well as my other favorite teams – Go Hawkeyes and Chicago Bears!
As we get ready to embark on this 2020-2021 school year, I am committed to working hard and providing a safe and productive learning environment for all. I believe building relationships and working collaboratively is key to creating a positive, strong community. I look forward to leading staff and students at Lovejoy in continued excellence and academic success.
Hi! My name is Jill Paczkowski, but everyone at Lovejoy knows me as “Nurse Jill”. I have been the School Nurse at Lovejoy for 9 years, and will be starting my 10th year this Fall (2020). I received my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania in 1983, and have worked in many different settings over the years, including 2 years as a School Nurse in Indiana. My husband is a Minister, and we have 1 daughter who is married and has 2 little boys in Omaha, Nebraska. My favorite activities are quilting, playing with my grandsons, and watching movies with my husband in the evenings. I love being at Lovejoy…our students and staff are like family to me, and I love being available to care for them when they need me. If you ever have questions or concerns about health (physical, mental, or emotional), immunizations, or anything else and you do not know who to contact, please feel free to contact me. I will help you in any way I can, or refer you to the person here at Lovejoy that can help you the most! I look forward to the day I can see you all again, but in the meantime please be safe and stay healthy!!
Hi! My name is Maddie Slough. This year, I am starting my second year of teaching but first at Lovejoy Elementary. I am so excited to join the Lovejoy team! This year I will be serving the 5th grade students. I attended Northwest Missouri State University where I earned my bachelors degree in Elementary Education with a minor in coaching, and a reading endorsement. I also attended grad school at Northwest Missouri State University. I earned a masters degree in Health and Physical Education with my focus on how movement in the classroom relates to student recall and cognition. Helping each and every student reach their goals is my passion. When I am not at school I love to spend time with my husband, Cree, family and friends. I played division two college golf so you can catch Cree and I at the golf course! I also enjoy volunteering my time to serve my community, working out, and shopping with my mom.
As an interventionist, my hope and dream is that the children at Lovejoy will love learning! I have taught in Iowa and South Dakota over the past 29 years. My teaching positions have extended from Pre-K to Sixth Grade with a majority of my focus being placed in the Reading/Language Arts areas. I love reading and learning! Literacy Skills are an integral part of many things we encounter in life! The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go! ~Dr. Seuss
My name is Amber Smith. I am so excited to be a part of Lovejoy Elementary and look forward to supporting our students in any way I can. I love being in the academic environment and observing all of the potential that roams our halls. I enjoy working with students individually, in small groups and during classroom guidance. I received my Master’s degree from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia and my undergrad from the University of Minnesota – Duluth.
Outside of school I enjoy spending time with my husband and two boys. We travel, stay active, explore, read and love to try new things in our free time.
This is my 16th year in DMPS. I’ve taught both 4th and 5th grades along with Technology at the elementary school level and been an Instructional Technology Coordinator for the district as a whole. I now get to dedicate my time to a single building, Lovejoy Elementary. I’m excited to be back where I started my teaching career.
Hello! My name is Sia Turner and this is my first year here at Lovejoy. I am so excited to get to know each of your students!
As a community school coordinator I connect students and families with our community in the school and throughout our city. In our school, I run the food pantry and laundry facilities. Outside of Lovejoy, I communicate with organizations to help provide resources for our school. I am always good contact point if you are a family in need of community services, or if you are a community organization looking to get involved with the school and can always be reached through email or by calling or texting (515)-650-3616.
I am a Des Moines native and went to East High School (Go Scarlets!) before attending Iowa State University where I graduated with my B.S. in Child, Adult & Family services. I speak English and Spanish and am always here to help answer questions. If I can’t help you myself, I can always refer you to the right person!
Hello! My name is Leah Vance and I am the new Orchard Place therapist serving at Lovejoy. I received my bachelor’s degree in social work from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio in 2019. I then attended the University of Iowa where I graduated with my master’s degree in Social Work in the spring of 2020. Outside of school, I enjoy traveling, spending time with friends and family, being outside, and watching movies. I am excited to be at Lovejoy Elementary and look forward to working with the wonderful staff and students.
One person can make a difference, and everyone should try. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy
I began my teaching career in 2011 with Des Moines Public Schools. Throughout my career I have taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, ELL and Intervention. I have my Masters of Education in Teacher Leadership, as well as endorsements in Reading, Social Studies and English as a Second Language. I love coming to school every day to see students and help them make growth both socially and academically.