About the Executive Director

Steve Coxon, Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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 and creativity. Steve has more than 20 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 Jr.FLL and FLL teams at several low-income schools in the St. Louis region.

About the Managing Director

Mara G. Berry, M.Ed., is an adjunct professor in gifted education 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 & ELL and a principal  for the GALACTIC gifted program in the Hazelwood School District.  Mara has presented at state and national level gifted conferences.  She holds her B.S. from the University of Missouri-Columbia, her M.Ed. 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 four years. He teaches robotics using the NXT and 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. She works with the Kirkwood School District at North Glendale Elementary School. Nikkole also serves the program as Assistant Director, Young Scholars.

Michael Dragoni, M.A.Ed. holds his BA in art education and his MA in educational administration from Maryville University. He currently teaches art at Buder Elementary in the Ritenour school district. He is currently completing his gifted education certification at Maryville.

Karen Engelkenjohn, M.Ed. 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 eight years and a Jr. FIRSTLEGO® League coach for seven years. She uses LEGO® NXT Mindstorms, LEGO® EV3, and LEGO® WeDos in her classroom.  Collecting and building LEGO® sets is one of her hobbies.

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.

Kristen Johnson, M.A.Ed. is assistant director, before and after care, and our early childhood specialist. She holds her BA in elementary and early childhood education as well as her MA in early childhood education from Maryville University. She currently teaches 5th grade in the Poplar Bluff, Missouri school district.

Jessica Kammerer, M.A.Ed. holds her BA in psychology as well as her MA in elementary education from Maryville University. She works with the Pattonville School District at Pattonville Heights Middle School as a reading teacher.

Kim Lewis currently teaches 6th grade math and accelerated Pre-Algebra in the Wentzville School District at Frontier Middle School.  She holds her BS in Elementary Education with an emphasis in reading and mathematics from Belhaven University. She is currently completing her MA in gifted education at Maryville University.  Kim also presented her work on mathematics strategies and resources for gifted learners at the Gifted Association of Missouri (GAM) District A Conference in February, 2013.

Leigh Mincks, M.A. holds her BA in Art Education from Truman University. She earned her MA in Education from Maryville University where she is currently working on her EdD in Teacher Leadership. Leigh is certified K-12 as an art educator having taught public school in Missouri and California as a Pre-K art specialist in a private preschool. Kirkwood School District has employed Leigh for 23 years where she has taught elementary students and currently teaches at North Kirkwood Middle School. She teaches general art to sixth, seventh and eighth grade artists and also co-teaches with their gifted specialist and sixth grade students.

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.

Julie Ream, M.A.Ed. 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, M.A.Ed. spent more than 30 years teaching grades K-5 and has taught robotics for 15 years. She holds her Missouri gifted certification, two master’s degrees in education, and 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 teaches third grade at Spoede Elementary School.  Previously, she taught math enrichment and LEGO® robotics at Reed School. She holds her BS in elementary education with an emphasis in early childhood from Missouri State University.  Carin is currently completing her MA in gifted education at Mizzou.  Carin is an active member of the Gifted Association of Missouri (GAM).

DeLynn Stoneburner, M.A.Ed. is the Gifted Resource Specialist for Parkway West High School.  She has 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.

Pat Whittaker, M.Ed. 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 seven years. For the past three years, Pat has served as a JFLL evaluator at the FIRST Robotics World Championship.

Shirley Versemann has taught middle school science for the past 24 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.

Jennifer Yukna, Ph.D. is assistant professor of chemistry at Maryville University where she is the pre-engineering program coordinator.  She holds her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale.  She teaches general chemistry, general physics, and physical chemistry.  Jennifer volunteers as a judge for FIRST®LEGO®League events in the St. Louis region.

Susan L. Miller, M.A. 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.


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