Meet Our Team

Meet Our Teachers

Iowa Virtual Academy (IAVA) teachers are passionate about inspiring our students to achieve great things.

Holly Callas-Sullivan photo

Holly Callas-Sullivan | Grades K–4 Special Education

Mrs. Callas-Sullivan joined the IAVA team in October of 2019. Before teaching for IAVA, she worked in the brick-and-mortar setting for 13 years. She has broad experience teaching in various settings for multiple ages, including preschool, kindergarten, grades 1, 3, 5–8, and K–8 special education. Mrs. Callas-Sullivan earned her Associate of Arts and business management degrees from Indian Hills Community College. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Buena Vista University and her Master of Arts in teaching, specializing in special education, from Morningside University. Her passion is to help all students learn and be successful in school and in life. Mrs. Callas-Sullivan enjoys spending her free time with her husband, son, and daughter.

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Brie Burkhart | 5th Grade/Middle School Special Education

Ms. Burkhart is new to IAVA as of 2023! She has a background in elementary education with an endorsement in special education, acquired from Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. Ms. Burkhart’s previous teaching experience includes working for the Iowa Braille School and Hills and Dales Autism Services. Diversity and inclusion have remained the home base for her teaching practices, focusing on building relationships and individualized student success. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Burkhart enjoys spending time with family, creative projects, and staying active alongside her German shepherd! 

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Janice Brattvet | Middle School Special Education

Ms. Brattvet has worked in education for eight years at the high school and collegiate levels. She previously taught high school math and special education. 2020–2021 was her first school year at IAVA, working with 4th–8th grade students as a special education teacher. She received her Bachelor of Science in math and secondary education from St. Ambrose University and her Master of Arts in Education in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix. Ms. Brattvet loves working with students in this age group and seeing their excitement to learn and grow. Outside of teaching, she has a fun, busy family with children ages 5, 7, and 9, who are always active with school, sports, and playing! Her favorite part of being a special education teacher is building relationships with her amazing students and watching them find their successes and wins.

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Megan Manning | High School Special Education

Mrs. Manning joined the IAVA team in 2023. She has four years of special education teaching experience, three in a virtual environment. She received an Academic Behavioral Strategist license from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, and is currently completing her master’s degree in special education. Mrs. Manning is a huge supporter of virtual learning environments, as she completed her degree online as well. She loves seeing students achieve their goals in a flexible virtual environment. Mrs. Manning enjoys spending time with her husband, three children, and bichon shih tzu, Caramel. 

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Dominique Smalley | High School Special Education

Ms. Smalley joined the IAVA team in August of 2023. She has vast experience teaching in various settings for multiple ages, from preschool to high school. Ms. Smalley e holds a Master of Arts in education from Touro University and recently completed her Educational Specialist in Reading through Arkansas State University. Ms. Smalley’s endorsements include K–6 elementary, K–12 reading, K–12 instructional strategist 1, and several subject-specific endorsements for middle and high school. She is passionate about lifelong learning and building personal connections with her students. Ms. Smalley enjoys being able to work with students in small groups and one-to-one to help them progress through their struggles and gain confidence as they find success. When not teaching, Ms. Smalley stays busy exercising, running her children to their activities, enjoying her two dogs, and spending quality time with family and friends.

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Whitney Bell | High School Special Education

Ms. Bell has been an educator since 2010 and is excited to join IAVA. She has a versatile background working with students across diverse age groups and brings a strong foundation of supporting students to her role. Ms. Bell is passionate about helping students discover their unique strengths and reach their full potential. When she is not in the virtual classroom, you will find her outdoors, camping, and going on adventures with her family. 

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Taryn Nelson | Kindergarten

Ms. Nelson has been teaching kindergarten for three years. She began her first year with IAVA in 2020. Ms. Nelson earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Upper Iowa University. She is currently working on earning her master’s degree in special education from Morningside College. For Ms. Nelson, the best part of teaching kindergarten is helping children start their education journey. She enjoys watching the kids light up when they learn something new!

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Veronica Acosta | Grade 1

Mrs. Acosta has been working in education for 14 years. She has experience teaching both online and in a brick-and-mortar setting. Mrs. Acosta received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education K–6 from Dordt University. She loves building relationships with her students and is passionate about helping students develop their potential.

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Jamie Walk | Grade 2

Ms. Walk joined the IAVA team in 2020. She has six years of teaching experience, and this is her first time virtual teaching. She received a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa. Ms. Walk loves creating a safe and positive learning environment where students can be themselves and showcase their creativity. In addition to teaching, she enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, traveling, being creative, and spending time with family.

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Emily Stevens | Grade 3

Ms. Stevens joined the IAVA team in 2017. She brings four years of experience in education and has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Northern Iowa. She is currently studying curriculum, assessment, and STEM for her master’s degree from Adams State University. Her favorite part about teaching is seeing students succeed and being proud of their work. Ms. Stevens ‘s goals as a teacher are to make learning fun and inspire students to become lifelong learners. She likes being able to deliver engaging lessons to students at their home. Besides teaching, Ms. Stevens enjoys spending time with family, outdoor adventures, and reading.

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Tory Holloway | Grade 4

Mrs. Holloway began teaching at IAVA in 2020 and absolutely loves it. Before teaching for IAVA, she spent three years teaching virtually and substitute teaching in her local districts. Mrs. Holloway’s favorite thing about teaching is the “lightbulb moment” when students learn something new. Mrs. Holloway’s goal as a teacher is to instill confidence in her students through love, humor, and encouragement. She enjoys being able to educate students virtually because she can build relationships with students and teachers all over the state. Mrs. Holloway lives on a small farm with her husband, two daughters, and several animals. In her free time, she likes to read, watch the Kansas City Chiefs, follow her girls to all their activities, take care of her animals, and travel.

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Shea Hill | Grade 5

Mrs. Hill brings nine years of teaching experience to IAVA. She received her undergraduate degree in communication studies from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She went back to school for teaching and received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a reading endorsement for grades 5–12, and endorsements in middle school math, science, and language arts. Mrs. Hill received her master’s degree in teaching with an ESL endorsement from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. She strives to build meaningful relationships with all her students and hopes to make a lifelong impact on their learning. Outside of teaching, Mrs. Hill enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.

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Aaron Hoekstra | Middle School History/Social Studies

Mr. Hoekstra is a secondary history and social studies teacher who joined the IAVA team in 2019. He grew up in Alton, Iowa, which is approximately 40 miles northeast of Sioux City. Mr. Hoekstra graduated from Northwestern College (Orange City, Iowa) with a history major and secondary teaching endorsement. Before teaching at IAVA, he taught secondary history and social studies at a private school in Sioux City for four years and substitute taught for two years in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Mr. Hoekstra enjoys teaching engaging lessons and making learning history fun! He also enjoys creating connections between the past and students’ lives. He believes all students can be successful and enjoys helping them reach their potential.

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Karen Zuercher | Middle School Math Teacher

Ms. Zuercher has been in education for more than 22 years. She started in education as an early childhood associate working with students with learning disabilities. She continued her associate assignment for another 13 years, working with 8th grade students. This inspired Ms. Zuercher to continue her education, and in December 2012, she received her teaching license from Grand Canyon University. Most of her education was done online, so she knows about the struggles and advantages of online learning. Ms. Zuercher began teaching at IAVA in 2014. She holds a standard K–6 teaching license with a K–8 math endorsement, K–8 reading endorsement, and 5–8 algebra for high school credit. One thing Ms. Zuercher likes about online teaching is meeting students from around the state and, when possible, planning field trips to meet them in person.

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Bryce Wulfekuhle | Middle School Health/Science

Mr. Wulfekuhle teaches middle school health/science. He received his teaching license from Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. He has been teaching since he graduated, and he substitute taught two years before then. Aside from teaching, Mr. Wulfekuhle enjoys camping, fishing, and playing disc golf with family and friends. He is focused on the well-being of his students and strives to see them succeed at every opportunity.

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Jason Hoff | Middle School Science

Mr. Hoff is teaching middle school science. After graduating from North Dakota State University with a degree in zoology-fisheries and wildlife, he received his science teaching licensure from the University of Minnesota-Morris. Mr. Hoff has eight years of teaching experience at both the middle and high school levels. He enjoys helping learners develop an understanding of science and the world around them. Aside from teaching, Mr. Hoff enjoys many outdoor activities, including gardening, hunting, and fishing. You will find him at many youth sporting events as a baseball and softball umpire and as he officiates football and volleyball. 

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Theresa Hart | Middle School ELA

Mrs. Hart has been in education for more than eight years, and she was excited to begin the 2021–2022 school year at Iowa Virtual Academy. She grew up in the Chicago suburbs and graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in education. Then Mrs. Hart began working as an educational associate with elementary and middle school children. Next, she taught English language arts to middle school students for two years. She is looking forward to helping her students be successful in school. In her free time, Mrs. Hart enjoys spending time with her husband and five children. 

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Maryssa Check | Middle School/High School History

Ms. Check is excited to learn alongside her students at IAVA. She received her bachelor’s degree in history from Iowa State University in 2020. She has experience teaching both online and in a brick-and-mortar setting. Aside from teaching, Ms. Check enjoys vacationing at historical sites, cuddling with her dogs, and playing board games with family and friends. 

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Ashley Schmitt | Middle School/High School Math

Ms. Schmitt began teaching high school mathematics in 2021 in a brick-and-mortar setting and joined IAVA in 2023. She previously taught algebra, pre-algebra, geometry, personal finance, and computer science coding with JavaScript. Ms. Schmitt received a Bachelor of Science from Loras College in 2019 for business analytics and mathematics and continued, receiving her master’s degree in secondary mathematics education from Western Governors University in 2021. Ms. Schmitt is currently in a program to get a computer science endorsement from the University of Northern Iowa. She loves to help students learn however they learn best! Teaching them life-long skills that they will be able to apply outside of school is something she is passionate about in her teaching.

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Emily Heisler | Middle School/High School ELA

Ms. Heisler joined the IAVA team in 2023. She has years of teaching experience covering both middle and high school English. She started her teaching career in Tennessee and spent several years in small-town Missouri. Ms. Heisler earned her bachelor’s degree in 2019 in secondary English education. She also completed her master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Missouri the summer before starting at IAVA. Ms. Heisler looks forward to building relationships with students and helping them grow each day.

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Renee Mente | High School Science

Ms. Mente is a secondary science teacher who joined IAVA in 2013. She earned her BA from the University of Iowa and her Master of Arts in teaching from St. Ambrose University. Ms. Mente has endorsements in biology, chemistry, physics, physical science, general science, and all science. She especially enjoys small group and individual Class Connect sessions at IAVA because of the focused time she has to address individual questions. Ms. Mente loves those “Aha!” moments when learning clicks with the students. She stays active in her community and church by serving on committees and project-planning events.

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Brandi Baker | High School Science

Ms. Baker brings more than two decades of experience teaching in both her military and civilian careers to IAVA. Studying at both Valdosta State University in Georgia and William Penn University in Iowa, where she received her bachelor’s degree, she went on to Oregon State and Purdue Global for additional minors and her master’s degree. Ms. Baker’s all-science endorsement, with minor studies in criminal science, horticulture, and educational technology, are just some of her favorite topics. With a small hobby farm, five children (the youngest two in 5th and 7th grades at IAVA), and six grandchildren, she loves finding the passion that drives each student and applying it to the value of the material as motivation for that genuine connection and spark in learning. 

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Peter Lyon | High School History

Mr. Lyon is a secondary history and social studies teacher. The 2021–2022 school year was Mr. Lyon’s first year as a full-time teacher and his first year at IAVA. He spent the previous three years substitute teaching in local districts at all grade levels and subjects. He grew up in Maquoketa, Iowa, and currently resides in Oelwein, Iowa, with his wife and new baby. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in history and Upper Iowa University with a 5–12 all social studies endorsement. In his free time, he enjoys writing, visiting Civil War monuments, and making maps. He hopes to make history as interesting for students as it is for him.

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Andrea McBeth | High School Math

Ms. McBeth joined the IAVA team in 2020. She currently resides in the southeastern portion of Iowa. She has taught math and computer science for 37 years in Texas and Iowa. Ms. McBeth earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary mathematics and physical education from Houston Baptist University, where she was awarded a full Division 1 golf scholarship. She earned her master’s degree in computer science in education from the University of Northern Iowa. Ms. McBeth desires to always work closely with students, parents, staff, and administrators to provide a high-quality educational experience. Success for her students is her number one priority.

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Sarah Fortin | High School Math

Mrs. Fortin is our high school mathematics teacher. She has an AA and AS from Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri, a BS in geology from Iowa State University, and a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mrs. Fortin is a former middle school science teacher, and for the past nine years, she has been a K12 Learning Coach for her two children. She firmly believes that every student can succeed if given the proper tools and opportunities and loves being able to help students reach their goals. Student success is always number one in Mrs. Fortin’s classroom, and she constantly endeavors to provide a safe learning environment with fun, personable, and engaging lessons for all her students. A native Minnesotan, Mrs. Fortin moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 2014, where she enjoys spending her free time volunteering with Scouts BSA and Girl Scouts, camping, fishing, hiking, traveling, and generally being out in the wilderness. Her favorite things to do are going on adventures, learning new things, and making memories with her kids.

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JoAnne Morenz | High School Language Arts

Mrs. Morenz has been in education since 1986. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University and her master’s degree from Iowa State University. She has previously served as a 9th–12th grade English teacher, teaching all levels, including IWCC Honors Early Start classes for Composition 1 and 2. Mrs. Morenz has also served as a PK–12 principal. She believes working with online education is an opportunity to bring a high-expectation experience to the needs of all learners.

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Lana Ouren | High School Language Arts

Ms. Ouren joined IAVA in 2023 as an English language arts teacher. Before coming to IAVA, she taught for 25 years at all levels of ELA, including concurrent enrollment (college and high school), AP courses, journalism, American and world literature, novels, and more. Ms. Ouren earned her BS from Minnesota State University, Moorhead, and her MA from Southwest State University, Marshall, Minnesota. She enjoys working with students from diverse backgrounds and creating a warm and inviting learning culture for all. In her spare time, Ms. Ouren enjoys all things lake-related (especially fishing), reading, biking, baking, and adventures with her eight grandchildren. 

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Becky Carlyle | Music

Ms. Carlyle joined the IAVA team in August 2023. Her teaching experience includes K–12 general/vocal music and private voice lessons. She has managed a youth symphony and has experience teaching preschool and 5th– 6th grade band. Ms. Carlyle studied music education/voice at Iowa State University. She has performed in multiple operas as a mezzo-soprano, choirs, and bands. Her other instruments include saxophone and piano. Ms. Carlyle recently penned and composed a hymn/spiritual currently being arranged for SATB choir. Outside of music, Ms. Carlyle has published two children’s books and has freelance written and photographed for her local newspaper. She enjoys getting to know her students’ special interests and inspiring them to dig deeper into whatever they are studying. Weight training and running are how Ms. Carlyle stays active to keep up with her two elementary-aged children.

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Robert Hampton | Business and Technology

Mr. Hampton has served as a teacher full-time and part-time since 2008. He is certified to teach business education/technologies 5–12 in Iowa and Georgia. He has been teaching with K12 since 2012. Mr. Hampton holds an Associate of Science in business administration, a Bachelor of Science in business administration: organizational management, and a Master of Arts in teaching. He taught middle school and high school in a brick-and-mortar setting from 2008–2013. Mr. Hampton loves having the opportunity to serve students through technological platforms that continually evolve and provide new opportunities to advance educational outcomes and experiences for students and teachers.

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Catherine Shaughnessy | Health and Physical Education

Ms. Shaughnessy joined the IAVA team in 2014. She brings more than nine years of experience in education and more than 10 years of coaching experience. Ms. Shaughnessy earned a BA in communication from Pennsylvania State University and an MS in education from Canisius College. She resides just outside Buffalo, New York, and is thrilled to meet and engage with students through the virtual platform! Ms. Shaughnessy feels that online learning provides freedom and flexibility for students to progress and navigate their courses. It allows students to review material as needed and move at a learning pace suitable to their success. She also likes the freedom to interact with students on their own time and in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

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Cynda Hopper | High School Art

Ms. Hopper has been teaching for an incredible 20 years. She has taught multiple subject areas in fine arts, from the history of art to advanced medium, her favorite being advanced sculpture. “Art is the root of human nature and is fascinating!” Ms. Hopper has a passion for education and helping people succeed. She looks forward to getting to know her students and helping them through their adventure into the realm of art. Student success is very important to Ms. Hopper, and she recognizes the role excellent communication plays in the online educational process. She looks forward to the opportunity to enhance students’ lives every day. “When words fail, art speaks.”