Faculty and Staff
Joe Palmer is the Chief Education Officer at Gordon Parks Elementary School. Mr. Palmer is beginning his fourth year at Gordon Parks and is excited about the opportunity to continue to serve children and help them become productive members of society. His recent administrative experience includes 4 years as a principal at Leawood Elementary in Blue Valley, 5 years as a principal in Liberty, and 12 years as a principal in Shawnee Mission. Mr. Palmer received his education specialist degree from Wichita State University, his Master of Science degree from Northeast Missouri State University, and his Bachelor of Science degree from William Jewell College.
Providing a positive and safe school environment as well as challenging students academically are the first priorities at GPES. In speaking about his role with GPES, he says, “I have a wonderful opportunity to work with our school community to make a positive impact on the lives of our students.” Mr. Palmer is married to Kris, has four children, and nine grandchildren. He is an avid reader of anything about John F. Kennedy and a huge Kansas Jayhawk basketball fan.
Ali Bunten believes a good teacher never stops learning. She aims to help the teachers of Gordon Parks continue to be learners, and grow in their profession. By doing this, the teachers can provide the best educational experience to the students of Gordon Parks.
Mrs. Bunten received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Iowa State University, and Masters of Education Degree from Baker University. Her education career has been filled with wonderful experiences as a third-grade teacher for 10 years, and an Instructional Coach for five years.
Mrs. Jennifer Hagemaster has spent the past 16 years in education. She has taught almost every grade level from Kindergarten through 7th grade and was an instructional coach for 5 years. She has spent her time in Raytown, Buffalo, Missouri, and the past 9 years in Liberty.
Mrs. Hagemaster graduated from Southwest Baptist University with a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary and Middle School Education with emphasis in the areas of Language Arts and Social Studies. She earned her Master's Degree from Webster University in Curriculum and Instruction again with an added emphasis in Communication Arts. Mrs. Hagemaster is eager to work with the teachers, students, and families of Gordon Parks Elementary.
Kirsten Lipari-Braman is the Coordinator of the Federal School Improvement Grant. Previously she served as the Director of Federal Programs for the Kansas City, Missouri School District, assisting with the coordination and implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) compliance mandates as well as the analysis and evaluation of their effectiveness. Mrs. Braman participated in developing administrative guidelines and policies for federal programs, and implementation of Title I Choice and Supplemental Education Services, working with transportation and service providers, and acting as liaison to parents ensuring federal regulations were followed. Prior to working in Federal Programs at the state and local level, Mrs. Braman was a Reading Specialist serving teachers and students in preschool through 6th grade, including gifted and talented.
She has taught science and mathematics at various grade levels, provided special education direct instruction to seventh and eighth graders in communication arts and math, and was a reading specialist for grades preschool through sixth. Mrs. Braman received her Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education from Avila University and Masters of Education in Reading from Northwest Missouri State University. She is a certified Reading Specialist and Elementary Teacher for Grades 1-6.
Tina Monks is excited to be at Gordon Parks as the Intructional Technology Coordinator and Technology Teacher. She has been in education for 16 years, starting as a 3rd grade teacher in a technology rich classroom which sparked her interest for technology in education. She loves to help teachers and students use technology to expand and enrich their learning.
Mrs. Monks graduated from the University of Central Missouri with a dual major in elementary and early childhood education and received her master’s degree from Webster University in teaching. She has also completed a graduate certificate program in online teaching and learning, and in December of 2015 she recieved her Education Specialist Degree in Educational Technology from the University of Central Missouri.
Mrs. Monks and her husband have 3 children. In their free time they enjoy going to the lake and traveling to new places.
Classroom Website: http://gpeslinks.weebly.com/
Meryci D. Diaz-Quezada was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. She and her family moved to the United States when she was 13 years old to give her siblings and herself a better life.
Meryci and her husband moved to Kansas City from New York 10 years ago. She is the proud mother of two wonderful children, Wennely, who has a passion for singing and Michael, who loves basketball. She attended Penn Valley Community College and worked as an Administrative Assistant at a previous school for two years. She is thrilled to be a part of the Gordon Parks Elementary School Family.
Sarah joined Gordon Parks Elementary School after 6 years at the Kansas City Sports Commission/WIN for KC where she managed a variety of events ranging from awards banquets, youth clinics and 5K runs. She was the race director of the Kansas City Marathon for 5 years. She has extensive experience recruiting and managing volunteers of varying levels as well as fundraising and development.
Sarah received her undergraduate degree in Bachelors of Business Administration in Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she competed as a softball student-athlete. She graduated from Illinois State University with a Masters of Science in Kinesiology and Recreation.
Sarah and her husband, Kevin, have two boys who keep them busy with school, outside activities and travel.
One cannot walk by Gladys Groves' community without a smile sweeping across their face. The energetic Kindergarteners are singing, dancing, and using new language they have just recently discovered!
Mrs. Groves grew up in Edwardsville, Kansas, and developed a love for reading very early in life. When asked about her college experience Mrs. Groves replies, "Yes, I am a Rock, Chalk, Jayhawker!" As a child, her favorite thing to do was play school, an activity that set the stage for her goal of becoming a teacher. Mrs. Groves believes that all children can learn and she speaks of herself as a "facilitator." "The real learning happens when the student becomes empowered to be an active learner." Reading is her favorite subject to teach because she loves to see the student's faces light up when they discover they can actually read!
Mrs. Groves' dream is "to keep in touch with some of the students and in the future hear them tell me that I did make a difference in their life".
Megan McAfee graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa with degrees in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education. Megan grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and after attending UNI, went to teach for 2 years in Houston, Texas. Megan then moved back to the midwest, to continue her love of teaching in Kansas City, Missouri. In her free time you can find Megan spending time outdoors, doing crafts, reading, and cheering on the Chiefs!
Virginia Hall moved to Kansas City from Louisiana. She worked at Center School District as a Behavior Interventionist Specialist for nine years, In-School Suspension Specialist for two years and tutor in Louisiana with a focus in Math and Science. Ms. Hall was a substitute teacher at Gordon Parks prior to starting full-time in the kindergarten classroom. Ms. Hall also enjoys spending time with her two daughters and family.
Ms. Deb Moore started her career with children as a Juvenile Probation Office after graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in Early Childhood and Community Services. Ms. Moore has also worked at the Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services in Wyandotte County, as a teacher in the pilot program for Parents as Teachers in Kansas City, MO, and finally as a teacher at Operation Breakthrough. Today, Ms. Moore works in the kindergarten classroom.
Ms. Moore has two grown children. Her daughter is a senior prosector working for the State of Missouri and her son is working on furthering his career in Los Angeles, CA. In her spare time, Ms. Moore spends time with family, friends, books and the occasional workout.
First and Second Grade Community
Anna Edell graduated from Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin with a degree in Elementary Education. This is her fourth year teaching.
Despite being raised in Minnesota, Miss Edell spent plenty of time during her youth in Kansas City visiting family, and was thrilled to move here in 2012. She joined the Gordon Parks family in January of 2014 and is excited to be teaching 1st grade this year! Miss Edell has a real passion for teaching, and hopes to instill a love of learning in each and every student.
In her free time she enjoys movies, reading, and spending time with friends and family. Miss Edell also loves watching and participating in a variety of sports, and even played soccer for her university.
Mrs. Curley received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from The University of Iowa, and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Baker University. She has 18 years of classroom teaching experience, 3 years at Gordon Parks, 7 years in Raytown and 8 years in Liberty.
When not teaching, Mrs. Curley enjoys spending time with family and friends. She also loves to read, cook, exercise and shop! Mrs. Curley lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband and 2 boys.
Classroom Website: http://gpfirstgrade.weebly.com/
Jordann McGinnis graduated from the University of Kansas in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Although she grew up in rural Kansas, Jordann moved to Kansas City after graduation married her husband, Will, in June 2015. She joined the Gordon Parks family in June 2015. She loves to be outside hiking, running and traveling to new places.
Madison Young is a graduate from the University of Missouri - Kansas City with her Bachelors in Elementary Education. She has been teaching first grade for 3 years. She is originally from St. Joseph, MO and loves to make learning relatable to her students. In her spare time, she enjoys exercising outside with her dog Bella, and learning new recipes to cook in the kitchen!
Classroom Website: http://gpfirstgrade.weebly.com/
Mrs. Tamara Allen-Williams grew up right here in Kansas City, Missouri. Her love for education began with her start in private education. One of the 8th grade graduation requirements was to write an autobiography, and she stated then that she was going to be a teacher. Her 34 years of teaching experience is proof of her non-wavering determination. “Active learning is the foundation for student empowerment. That’s why I am a lifelong learner.” She enjoys visits from previous students. “One of the greatest feelings is to teach a student that is the child of a former student. That’s how I know I made a difference in that student’s life.” Mrs. Allen-Williams lives in the Kansas City area and has 2 adult sons.
Sallie Davidson teaches 2nd grade here at Gordon Parks. Mrs. Davidson has always known that she wanted to be a teacher. She comes from a large family of educators. Mrs. Davidson began her journey to becoming a teacher at the University of Central Missouri where she double majored in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. While at UCM she was a member of the Association of Childhood Education International as well as Kappa Delta Pi, an educational honors fraternity.
Mrs. Davidson's first classroom was a 1st grade classroom in the Liberty Public School system. She spent 5 years teaching 1st grade and then moved up to 2nd grade and taught 2nd grade for 5 years before joining the staff at Gordon Parks. While with Liberty Public Schools, Mrs. Davidson severed on a variety of committees at both the school level as well as the district level. Mrs. Davidson lives in the northland with her husband, two kids, and very hyper lab!
Jordan Dockery graduated from the University of Kansas in 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and ESOL endorsement. Jordan is currently pursuing her Master Degree in Education and Innovation.
Jordan grew up in Shawnee Kansas and is currently living in Overland Park. She enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with friends and family.
Madison Brand is a second grade teacher at Gordon Parks Elementary School. She received her B.S.E. at the University of Kansas and is obtaining a Graduate Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders at the University of Kansas as well. The 2016-2017 school year is Madison’s first year as a teacher. Madison enjoys being with her family, her friends, and her pets. She has an 18 year old sister that attends the University of Kansas and an eight year old stepsister in second grade.
Third and Fourth Grade Community
Christie Leadstrom is a graduate of Drury University. She holds a Bachelor's degree and Master's Degree in Elementary Education. This is her twentieth year of teaching. She has taught Kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and fifth through eighth grade Social Studies.
Mrs. Leadstrom and her husband have three children and one grandchild, with another on the way. They enjoy watching movies, playing with their dogs, and traveling.
Jaime Barrow is a proud Kansas City native. She attended Southwest Baptist University and later transitioned to Iowa where she attended Graceland University and earned her Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education with an emphasis in reading. Following graduation in 2012, Jaime became a second grade teacher with Central Decatur Elementary in Iowa. In 2014 she returned home to continue her success as an educator at Allen Village teaching second grade. Mrs. Barrow is excited to be teaching third grade at Gordon Parks Elementary. She enjoys taking walks with her husband, Robert, and two kids, Jayla and Wesley.
Leslie is thrilled to be joining the Gordon Parks family as she begins her tenth year in education. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Mizzou, a Master's in Education from Rockhurst University, and an Education Specialist degree in School Leadership from UMKC.
She spent nine years as a teacher and administrator at University Academy where she developed a passion for changing the landscape of educational opportunities for kids in Kansas City. Leslie can often be seen jogging along the Brookside trail, or out for long walks in her Waldo neighborhood with her husband, Brad, and their two children, Holden and Harper.
Vanessa Harvey is a graduate of Rockhurst University where she received her Bachelors in Elementary Education. Vanessa was born and raised in Kansas City, MO and currently lives in Raytown with her husband and two daughters.
Mrs. Wattree has been an educator for ten years. She has taught at University Academy in Kansas City, Missouri, as well as in the Liberty Public School system. She has taught fourth and fifth grade. When Mrs. Wattree isn't working, she enjoys traveling with her husband.
Coach Lentz graduated from Kearney High School and went on to attend Northwest Missouri State University. Here he studied and majored in Education. He is an active member of Missouri's Physical Education conference where he has presented ideas and practices to peers around the state. In his time at Gordon Parks Coach Lentz was named Teacher of Year during the 2015-2016 school year. In his free time he enjoys golfing and going to the lake.
After graduation Coach Lentz attended Northwest Missouri State University where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education. While at Northwest, Coach Lentz was a volunteer with the Special Olympics, involved in a future physical educators club, and was a practice player for the Northwest Women’s basketball team. Coach Lentz did his student teaching in the Fall of 2013 in the North Kansas City School District and graduated with honors from Northwest Missouri State University in December 2013. After graduating he took a position at a nearby high school as a Paraprofessional before accepting the Physical Education position at Gordon Parks. Coach Lentz is looking forward to having a positive impact on student’s lives for years to come at Gordon Parks.
Paige Berger graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelors of Science in Education and a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Ceramics.
Mrs. Berger, originally from St.louis, moved from Springfield to Kansas City in January of 2014 and has since been enjoying the diverse art venues and eateries the city has to offer. She became a member of the Kansas City Clay Guild this year where she teaches recreational ceramics classes on the weekends.
In her spare time Paige greatly enjoys spending time outdoors. She especially loves canoeing, camping and working in her community garden plot.
Katelynn Frazier is a graduate from East Carolina University located in Greenville, North Carolina. In May of 2016, she received her Bachelors degree in Music Education. She has teaching experience ranging from percussion ensembles to middle and high school general music and band classes. Katelynn decided to venture out to the beautiful Kansas City the summer after graduation to fuel her joy of new adventures. She enjoys visiting the River Market and hearing the Kansas City Symphony at the Kauffman Center.
Melanie Garrett has been a nurse for 10 years. Her specialty is providing healthcare for children. Ms. Garrett has provided nursing care for Kansas City as well as Liberty Public School district. In her spare time she loves to travel with family, watch movies, and roller skate. Ms. Garrett is honored to be part of the Gordon Parks Family.
Hannah Iversen is the special education teacher at Gordon Parks. Hannah Graduated from Northwest Missouri State University with a degree in Special Education and Elementary Education. She has lived near Kansas City her whole life and has recently moved downtown. When not in the classroom Ms. Iversen enjoys spending time with her small but very close knit family. She also has a great passion for animals; she has four pets that have all been rescued. She enjoys being outdoors and active with her family and pets. Hannah and her husband are expecting their first child.
Pamela Justus serves as the Focus Room facilitator. Nearly 20 years in the field of urban education has prepared her well. She has taught most grades and content areas K-8, was an instructional coach, and spent 10 years teaching and learning in a wide variety of positions at the UMKC School of Education.
Ms. Justus received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and Reading Endorsement from Iowa State University, and her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Urban Education from UMKC. Her K-6 CLASS data collection certification adds to her understanding of the intricate nature of the teaching and learning process, though none of this has prepared her as thoroughly as her greatest blessings...her three children. They live love well and learn together daily.
Ms. Norris is our Reading Specialist and brings more than 20 years of experience in the educational field with her to Gordon Parks. She earned a Bachelor's in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education from Kansas State University and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Language and Literacy at UMKC.
Ms. Norris began her career in the classroom, most recently in the Shawnee Mission School District, as a second, fourth, fifth and sixth grade teacher. In addition to her experience as a teacher, she was Director of Education for Sylvan Learning Center as well as an Educational Consultant and Technology Specialist for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt School Publishers.
She enjoys spending time with family and friends, riding her mountain bike and surfing the internet/playing games on her iPad.
Leah Karma Probasco-Burns is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor and K-8 Certified School Counselor. Leah earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Missouri- Columbia and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Missouri State University. Leah has spent time as a counselor in the Urban Core of Kansas City, MO, just prior to joining Gordon Parks Elementary, she worked with the students at University Academy. There she created and implemented a counseling program providing individual and group therapy, ongoing student, teacher and parent education, classroom lessons and crisis intervention. Leah specializes in working with children and families suffering from traumatic experiences.
Leah lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and two young children. She loves art, going to the lake, traveling and the MIZZOU tigers!
Mica Weaver was born and raised in Kansas City, MO. She has spent the last 13 years serving this community in the area of social work and community support. Her academic background includes a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Lincoln University and a Master of Business Administration for Webster University. She has worked with such community agencies as Swope Health Services, The Family Conservancy and the Division of Family Services.
She enjoys traveling and spending time her family.
Evan Linville is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and serves as a counselor and member of the CARE Team at Gordon Parks Elementary School. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Truman State University and his Masters of Social Work from the University of Missouri-Kansas City . Evan worked previously at Operation Breakthrough as a Child Therapist, where he focused on Attachment work and facilitating therapy for children and families who have experienced trauma. He and his wife, Sally, enjoy being outside, making art, and going on road trips.
What's a former Montana logger, restaurant owner and Air Force fighter pilot doing under the sink in the school cafeteria? John Shadoan, building manager, helps maintain the 90-year-old building.
Janeth Ortiz is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. She is married to a wonderful man and has 2 amazing boys- Jorge and Axel. She is very proud of her boys and they both attend Gordon Parks Elementary.
She is very happy to be a part of the Gordon Parks family and looking forward to this new school year.
Michael Turner was no stranger to Gordon Parks when he joined the maintenance staff.
"Four of my children went to school here," he said proudly. "I know what this school offers--small class sizes and lots of encouragement. This job is a good fit for me," Mr. Turner said. "I can help keep the school stay clean and, at the same time, serve as a role model for the boys; many come from single-family homes."