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Faculty Bios


About the Executive Director

Steve Coxon, PhD is assistant professor and director of programs in gifted education at Maryville University including this program, the graduate program, and the Maryville Young Scholars Program to identify and serve high ability children from groups traditionally underrepresented in gifted programs. He holds his PhD in gifted education from the College of William and Mary and conducts research on developing STEM talents in pK-8th grade gifted children, especially spatial ability, mathematics, and creativity. Steve has more than 35 publications and 30 juried presentations, is the science education columnist for Teaching for High Potential, the book review editor for Roeper Review, and is the author of the book Serving Visual-Spatial Learners. He serves as an educational consultant, project and program evaluator, and professional developer. He volunteers as a judge advisor for FIRST® LEGO® League events in the St. Louis region and as a member of the St. Louis FLL Planning Committee. He has helped to start JFLL and FLL teams at several low-income schools in the St. Louis region.

About the Managing Director

Mara G. Berry, MEd is the Director of Identification and Student Programs at Maryville University where she also serves as the site coordinator for the Maryville Young Scholars Program to identify and serve high ability children from groups traditionally underrepresented in gifted programs. Formerly, she was Director of Gifted and English language learners as well as principal for the GALACTIC gifted program in the Hazelwood School District. Mara has presented at state and national level gifted conferences. She holds her BS from the University of Missouri-Columbia, her MEd from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and certification in Special Education Administration from Lindenwood University.  Mara has coached FIRST® Lego® League & Jr. FIRST LEGO teams for the last four years, plus she is a member of the St. Louis Area Planning Committee for FLL and volunteers as a judge for FLL competitions. She also volunteers and teaches as a Master Gardener with the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Faculty Biographies

Mike Beck holds a BS from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville and has certification in gifted education earned through Lindenwood University. He has taught in the Hazelwood School District’s GALACTIC Gifted Program for the past eight years. Mike has presented at state and national level gifted conferences and has coached FIRST® Lego® League teams for the last five years. He teaches robotics using the EV3 platforms.

Nikkole Briggs holds her BA in elementary education with a minor in Psychology from Maryville University where she is a graduate student in gifted education. Nikkole serves the program as assistant director, Young Scholars. She teaches gifted students at four schools in the St. Louis Public Schools and is a teacher in the Maryville Young Scholars Program Summer Academy.

Kathie Eckelkamp, MAEd holds two master’s degrees in education. Her first degree was from Webster University with an emphasis on inclusion education and her most recent master’s is from Lindenwood University in gifted education. She has taught 17 years full time in elementary schools in the St. Louis area. She currently teaches in the Hazelwood School District’s GALACTIC Gifted Program. She enjoys teaching a variety of STEM classes and has mentored for the FIRST Lego League for the past two years.

Kelly Eggers, MA holds her BA in Art Education, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and MA in Education from Maryville University. During her studies, she completed internships in Kirkwood, Affton, and Parkway. This will be her 3rd year helping to integrate art and creativity into the Summer Science and Robotics Program. Currently, she serves as a high school art teacher in the Normandy Collaborative School District. Kelly is a painter and focuses on imagination in her own work.

Karen Engelkenjohn, MEd holds her bachelor’s in art history from Principia College and her master’s in special education from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She serves as the gifted specialist at Reed School. Karen has been a FIRST® LEGO® League coach for nine years and a Jr. FIRSTLEGO® League coach for eight years. She uses LEGO® EV3 and LEGO® WeDos in her classroom. Collecting and building LEGO® sets is one of her hobbies.

Michael Dragoni, MAEd holds his BA in art education, his MA in educational administration and gifted education certification from Maryville University. He now teaches art at Buder Elementary in the Ritenour School District where he holds significant grant funding to incorporate technology with art. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at Maryville University.

Evan Goff is the creator of Smart Kids Robotics (www.SmartKidsRobotics.com), which offers kids challenging STEM learning opportunities year-round using robotics. He has coached robotics teams in global competitions for several years. Evan holds a BS in business management, a BS in computer science, and several IT professional certifications obtained during the growth of his IT career.

Dan Healy is a gifted certified teacher. He has taught for 7 years in the Hazelwood School District.  He currently teaches middle school gifted children.

Kasey Healy is a gifted certified teacher. She has taught for 16 years in the Hazelwood School District.  She currently teaches elementary gifted children.

Doug Hunt, PhD holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Washington University, a MS in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a PhD in electrical engineering from Duke University. He teaches an in-school program at McKinley Classical Leadership Academy during the school year as well as for their summer MathJam through Project MEGSSS, a program for students highly gifted in math. He also runs the St. Louis-area division of the IMACS math and computer enrichment program for elementary school students.  He occasionally teaches math contest preparation and other math enrichment classes for the Gifted Resource Council and Meramec Community College’s College for Kids program.  He has experience teaching at the college level, but especially enjoys sparking the interest of talented younger students in the exciting world of mathematics.

Kristen (Johnson) Joplin, MAEd is assistant director, before and after care, and the program’s early childhood specialist. She holds her BA in elementary and early childhood education as well as her MAEd in early childhood education from Maryville University. She currently teaches 5th grade at Inman Intermediate in Nixa, Missouri Public Schools.

Jessica Kammerer, MAEd holds her BA in psychology as well as her MA in elementary education from Maryville University. She is a third grade teacher at Orchard Farm Elementary School in the Orchard Farm School District.

Kim Lewis, MAEd currently teaches 3rd grade Peine Ridge Elementary. Formerly, she taught accelerated math at the middle school level. She holds her BS in elementary education with an emphasis in reading and mathematics from Belhaven University. She holds her MA in gifted education from Maryville University. Kim recently presented her work on mathematics strategies and resources for gifted learners at the Gifted Association of Missouri (GAM) District A Conference.

Lindsay Lombardo holds a BA in elementary education from Fontbonne University. She is the enrichment specialist at Old Bonhomme Elementary in the Ladue School District where she teaches LEGO WeDo and NXT robotics.

Gretchen Mollison is assistant director, registration and communications. She holds her BA in early childhood and elementary education from Maryville University where she is a graduate student in gifted education. She previously provided gifted enrichment in mathematics and robotics in Ladue Schools.  She now serves as the program manager for the Children using Robotics for Engineering, Science, Technology, and Math (CREST-M) grant project that Drs. Coxon and Dohrman hold from the Monsanto Fund to create math curricula that engage diverse children in STEM fields through the use of robotics. 

Susan L. Miller, MA holds her certification in secondary mathematics, BA in English, and MA in education administration from the University of Missouri. Previously, she taught honors courses at McCluer North High School and technical programs at Jefferson College. She currently teaches highly gifted middle school students as a faculty for Project MEGSSS as well as in the IMACS math and computer enrichment program for elementary school students.

Jamie Pegg, MAEd is a gifted education specialist for the Francis Howell School District at Central Elementary School. Jamie has taught for fifteen years specializing in gifted education for the last nine years. She holds her master’s degree in gifted education from Lindenwood University. In addition, Jamie enjoys participating in education-focused programs and will be attending Educators @Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama this June. Jamie teaches LEGO robotics in the Spectra gifted program at Francis Howell. She participates in the First Lego League as an assistant coach mentoring students and utilizing the EV3 Mindstorm System.

Julie Ream, MAEd is a gifted education specialist for the Francis Howell School District at Becky-David Elementary School. She holds her master’s degree in gifted education from Maryville University. Julie teaches LEGO robotics with her students in the Spectra program at her school. 

Kathie Reuter, MAEd spent more than 30 years teaching grades K-5 and has taught robotics for more than 15 years. She holds her Missouri gifted certification and two master’s degrees in education. She has studied advanced robotics at Carnegie Mellon University through their enrichment program for educators at the Robotics Institute. Kathie volunteers as the FIRST® LEGO® League Partner for Eastern Missouri.

Carin Rook is currently the gifted specialist at Conway Elementary. Previously, she taught math enrichment and LEGO® robotics within the Ladue School District. She holds her BS in elementary education with an emphasis in early childhood from Missouri State University. Carin is an active member of the Gifted Association of Missouri (GAM) and is beginning her 4th year at Maryville Summer Science and Robotics.

Jessica Senne, AIA, NCIDQ is assistant professor of interior design at Maryville University.  In 2014, Professor Senne curated the exhibition Suburban Modernism: The Architecture and Interior Design of Ralph and Mary Jane Fournier, which received critical acclaim both regionally and nationally. She is principal architect and interior designer for Studio Lark, LLC.  She has worked with Ladue Schools to help students design and implement outdoor classroom space. Professor Senne’s recent efforts with Dr. Coxon have included co-authoring the article Architecture: A Nexus of Creativity, Math, and Spatial Ability and co-presenting the paper at the 2014 Gifted Association of Missouri and National Association for Gifted Children conferences.

Tom Spudich, PhD is an associate professor of chemistry and forensic science at Maryville University where he is the forensic science program director. In 2013, Dr. Spudich was awarded a US patent for co-creating a light-emitting element based on laser carbonized polymer substrate. He serves as an associate editor for the Analytical Sciences Digital Library (www.asdlib.org) and was formerly the co-director for the Missouri Section of the Junior Science Engineering and Humanities Symposium. Dr. Spudich is a co-founder of Spectrum Perception, LLC, a company that designs and manufactures low-cost, low-volume spectrometers for chemical and biological applications.

Nicole Stewart has her BA in elementary education from Maryville University. She now teaches fourth grade at Dardenne Elementary. Nicole has a background in theater. This will be her third year serving in this program.

DeLynn Stoneburner, MA is the gifted resource specialist for Parkway West High School. She has previously taught in both elementary and middle school with an emphasis in mathematics. DeLynn holds a BS in elementary and middle school education and has her MA in special education. She currently attends Maryville University as a graduate student in gifted education.

Erik B. Taylor is the upper school science specialist and STEAM coordinator for City Academy School, a private elementary school in St. Louis City. He holds BS degrees in biological sciences and education from SIU-Edwardsville. He has worked as an educator and camp counselor for over 20 years engaging students in and out of the classroom through the integration of science, technology, engineering, art and math. Erik coaches and mentors an FLL team and robotics club for aspiring engineers, and volunteers as a cub master for the Boy Scouts of America encouraging scouts to pursue STEM-based learning. In summer 2009, Erik took part in the prestigious Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy in addition to a workshop at the Center for Engineering Education Outreach at Tufts University. He has been recognized as an Educator of Distinction by the Independent Schools of St. Louis.

Shirley Versemann has taught middle school science for the past 25 years. She received her BS in education from Southeast Missouri State University and is certified through the University of Hawaii in DASH and FAST inquiry based science instruction. She currently teaches for the St. Louis Archdiocese at Our Lady School in Festus.

Michael Vordtriede, MEd holds his BA in elementary education with a minor in art education from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He earned his MA and has certification in gifted education through Maryville University. He has taught 3rd grade and K-6 Art in the Ferguson Florissant School District for the past 20 years. Michael currently teaches in the Ferguson Florissant PROBE Gifted Program, where he integrates LEGOs into daily STEAM activities. He also serves as faculty in the Maryville Young Scholars Program Summer Academy.

Pat Whittaker, MEd recently retired as a gifted specialist, having taught gifted learners in the Ladue and Hazelwood school districts.
She has a BS in elementary education and a MEd in special education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and certification in Gifted Education from Lindenwood University. Pat helped to introduce WeDo Robotics to teachers in  the Ladue School District as part of their enrichment program. She is a volunteer member of the St. Louis FIRST® LEGO® League Planning Committee and has served as a coach, mentor, and evaluator for the JFLL and FLL programs for eight years. For the past four years, Pat has served as a JFLL evaluator at the FIRST Robotics World Championship.