2019 Speaker Biographies
Ron Axtell, IowaWORKS Region 1
Ron Axtell is currently the WIOA Title I Director for lowaWORKS in Region 1 for Delaware County and Dubuque County. He has been employed with East Central Intergovernmental Association (ECIA) for over 27 years providing case management services for adults, dislocated workers, and youth under the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), Workforce Investment Act (WIA), and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). For the past seven years he has also been responsible for program management under WIA and WIOA. He has been a National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP) member since 2007 and Association of Iowa Workforce Partners (AIWP) Board member since 2012. In addition, he has previously served as the Iowa Youth Advocacy Committee Chairperson and the Iowa WIOA Title I Directors Chairperson. He is very proud to be a part of the wonderful partnerships developed in northeast Iowa that have collectively had a positive impact on individuals and families.
Zekariyas (Zack) Balcha, EMBARC
Mr. Balcha was born and raised in Barentu, Eritrea. After completing high school, he studied Philosophy and Theology at the Philosophical-Theological Institute in Asmara, Eritrea. He resettled to Seattle, WA in 2010. Prior to joining EMBARC as a RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps member, Zack taught community-based ESL classes for refugee families in Des Moines. He also worked with Lutheran Social Services as a medical specialist (case manager) during his time in Seattle. Zack is committed to empowering other refugee families in Iowa.
Amy Beller, Iowa Workforce Development
Amy Beller spent the first ten years of her career working for United States Senator Tom Harkin. She held numerous positions with the Senator’s office ranging from scheduler, veterans and military constituent caseworker, and state outreach coordinator. She spent two years developing the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University. Amy was the Assistant Director for Programming and External Relations where she helped to create the Institute’s community and university programming. In December 2016, Amy moved to Iowa Workforce Development as the Registered Apprenticeship Program Coordinator. Amy earned her master’s in Public Administration from Drake University and her bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University. She resides in Carlisle with her husband, Justin, and two young daughters.
Kelly Brousseau, IowaWORKS of Burlington
Kelly Brousseau is a Workforce Adviser at IowaWORKS of Burlington, where she develops and presents customized training and certified programming. Based on feedback from area educators and employers, Kelly developed a labor market presentation focusing on high school students and the career decision making process. The curriculum engages students by focusing on what their current lifestyle looks like and what they need to make to maintain and support themselves as adults. Kelly also facilitates training related to interpersonal skill development activities for the Alcohol and Drug Dependency treatment facility.
Janae Carter, Iowa Workforce Development
Janae Carter is a Workforce Program Coordinator with Iowa Workforce Development. She started with the agency in 2015 as an Administrative Assistant Advisor and became Coordinator over the program in early 2018. She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Buena Vista University. Janae received her UI Operations Integrity Certificate in July 2018. She enjoys spending time with her one year old son and her husband in her free time.
Joe Collins, Iowa Department of Education
Joe works as an Education Consultant for Sector Partnerships and Career Pathways for the Iowa Department of Education. In this role, he helps to connect, assist, and empower sector partnerships or “sector boards” in Iowa. Prior to joining the Department, he worked as a PROMISE JOBS Training Facilitator for IowaWORKS-Central Iowa to develop and lead workshops throughout the community on topics such as resumes, interviewing, work ethic, and conflict resolution to a wide range of audiences. Before diving head first into the public sector, however, he also worked in Human Resources, Account Management and Marketing in the private sector. He earned his Bachelor of Science degrees in Marketing, Spanish, and International Business from Iowa State University and a Master of Science degree in Adult, Continuing, and Occupational Education from Kansas State University. He believes in continuous personal and professional improvement, most recently graduating from Iowa State University’s 2018 Leadership Institute for a New Century (LINC) and the University of Northern Iowa’s 2018 Heartland Economic Development Course (HEDC).
Brian S. Dennis, Des Moines Area Community College
Brian S. Dennis has worked in disability and low-income services for the past 20 years. His career includes residential care, mental health case management, local housing services; and now education/training and employment services through Iowa’s implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). He has presented on best practices and outreach to underserved populations at the National Council on Rehabilitation Council and the Rehabilitation Services Administration in Washington, DC and locally at the Iowa Mental Health Counselor Association and Iowa Rehabilitation Association conferences. Mr. Dennis holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, as well as his CRC (Certification in Clinical Rehabilitation Counselor) and is a certified SSDI/SSI benefits planner. He is a member of boards and projects including Iowa’s Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program, Iowa APSE and the Program Coordinating Committee of Des Moines Housing’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program. He is also an adjunct professor at Drake University teaching courses related to Family Counseling, Psychiatric Disorders, and Disability Policy which integrate insight into the systemic issues which contribute to generational poverty.
Kelli Diemer, Iowa Department of Education
Kelli Diemer has been an education consultant with the Iowa Department of Education since 2008. She works with high schools and community colleges on business curriculum, entrepreneurship, and work-based learning. Kelli currently serves on the Board for the Association for Career and Technical Education as the Business Education Vice President.
Andrea Feller, IowaWORKS Clinton and Jackson County
Andrea Feller is an Employment & Training Counselor for the IowaWORKS program in Clinton and Jackson County for the past 3 years. She has been in education, both K-12 and Higher Education, for over 15 years in a variety of positions both in and out of the classroom. Her role has always included empowering individuals to seek out their opportunities to succeed in both education and career. She has both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in Business with an emphasis in Human Resources and Marketing.
Maria Gapen, IowaWORKS Burlington
Maria Gapen, Employment & Training Specialist, has worked with the WIOA Program for the past 18 years. Maria enjoys assisting customers as they develop their short and long term goals for successful career transitions. She was awarded the Outstanding Leadership & Community Service Award from Southeastern Community College Phi Theta Kappa, having been nominated by one of her customers. Maria graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College with a double major in Criminal Justice and Sociology and spent six years working in social services (and fishing) in Alaska before returning to her home state of Iowa. She lives in Southeast Iowa with her husband and son; and their adorable pug Olive, and two cats Spyder and Buddha; and enjoys collecting vintage costume jewelry.
Nina Gotta, Iowa Workforce Development
Nina Gotta is a Workforce Program Coordinator for the Trade Act in Des Moines, Iowa. She has been employed with the State of Iowa for 20 years in various positions. Nina has experience with managing several field offices and programs such as PROMISE JOBS, Veterans, Skill Iowa, and Quality Assurance. Nina has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a minor in Business from Drake University and a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Drake University.
Lanae Greene, IowaWORKS Southeast Iowa
Lanae Greene has worked for IowaWORKS Southeast Iowa for over five years. Four and a half of those years have been dedicated to the advocacy for job and career seekers with disabilities through the Disability Employment Initiative. Lanae has the knowledge and guidance to assist other agencies with ways to provide the best services for their clients, students, or employees, while building partnerships and strengthening program/participant relationships.
Mark Holloway, IowaWORKS Scott, Clinton, and Jackson Counties
Mark Holloway is a Business Service Representative for the IowaWORKS program in Scott, Clinton and Jackson Counties for the past seven years. He has been in education, economic, and workforce development for the past 16 years. He is a strong believer that “Teamwork makes the Dream work”. He has a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and bachelor’s degree in Marketing.
Grace Htee, EMBARC
Ms. Htee resettled to the U.S. in 2007 after spending 14 years in Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand. In 2018, she earned her AA in Social Work and Human Services at Des Moines Area Community College. Prior to working with EMBARC as a WorkReady Navigator, she led community health education for Karen refugee families in Des Moines. Grace understands firsthand the hardships that refugees in this country must face and is passionate about helping refugees find safety, stability, and hope.
Lori Jensen, Children & Families of Iowa Des Moines
Lori Jensen is the Resource Coordinator for Children and Families of Iowa. She has been with Children and Families of Iowa for over five years. She graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Sociology and Child and Family Services. She is committed to helping survivors of domestic violence find safety, peace, and empowerment.
Maris Kingfisher, Iowa Western Community College
Maris Kingfisher has over ten years of experience in the social work and youth development fields. She currently works at IowaWORKS as a Youth Career Counselor for Iowa Western Community College Workforce Development Department. Maris loves to travel, cook, and spend time with her wife, Rachel.
Keri Kono, Hawkeye Community College
Keri Kono, Career Pathway Navigator with Hawkeye Community College, holds a passion for collaboration and partnering with other programs to better serve each individual participant. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University in Psychology and Family Services and is now enrolled at Drake University pursuing her master’s in Public Administration. She has experience partnering with various programs and agencies, including Vocational Rehabilitation, Adult Basic Ed, WIOA Adult/Dislocated Worker and Youth, Promise Jobs, and the DHS E&T program. Keri is actively involved in local Sector Partnerships, resulting in solid relationships with local employers. Her dedication to customer service and communication has resulted in partnerships that support individuals on their pathway to success.
Teresa Larson-White, Children & Families of Iowa Fort Dodge
Teresa Larson-White is the current Co-Director for the Fort Dodge Office of Children & Families of Iowa where she oversees the WIOA Youth program, the Behavioral Health Intervention Program, and Substance Abuse Services. She received her Bachelor of Psychology from the University of Iowa in 1987 and has been a Licensed Bachelor Level Social Worker since 1998. She has worked at Children & Families of Iowa for the past 31 years taking on many challenges including Family Crisis Intervention Counselor, In-Home Family Counselor, domestic violence advocate, working with court-ordered domestic violence offenders, Family Team Meeting facilitator, and facilitating treatment groups for adults and adolescents. She is currently working on becoming a Certified Drug & Alcohol Counselor. In addition to her full-time job, Teresa is an adjunct instructor at Iowa Central Community College where she teaches Women’s Issues, Social Justice & Advocacy, and Mandatory Child Abuse Reporter Training. She also serves on the city council in the small town of Badger, Iowa where she lives with her husband, one dog, and two cats.
Mary Lefeber, Iowa Western Workforce Development
Mary works for Iowa Western Workforce Development as a Title I Specialist. She has over 31 years’ experience working with Adults, Dislocated Workers, and Youth. She started her career in employment and training working with the Summer Youth Employment and Training Program and assisted over 400 youth with gaining job skills. In 2008, she was transferred to PROMISE JOBS and helped TANF recipients with becoming self-sufficient for five years. She returned to the Title I program in 2013 as a Career Specialist and assisted the Business Services Team in the office helping to support employers in finding employees and doing workshop presentations for businesses. She is A Game certified as well as Nationally Certified as a Real Colors Trainer.
Marla Loecke, IowaWORKS Region 1
Marla Loecke is currently the Operations Manager for lowaWORKS, Region 1 Dubuque and Decorah. Marla is involved in workforce-related programs for businesses and job seekers for eight counties in Region 1. Marla has worked in the Operations Manager role for lowaWORKS and Iowa Workforce Development since 2010. Previously, Marla worked at Iowa Department of Human Services for 10 years as a Child Abuse Assessor and Social Work Supervisor. Marla works passionately to enhance the lives of Iowans.
Reyma McCoy McDeid, Central Iowa Center for Independent Living
Reyma McCoy McDeid is the Executive Director of Central Iowa Center for Independent Living in Des Moines. She has carved out a unique career in employment services, disability advocacy, and education and she works to engage voters with disabilities in the political process and to educate elected officials on the issues that impact Iowa’s largest minority community. She holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration with a concentration in Business; her vocation is supporting fellow individuals on the Autism spectrum to lead independent, fulfilling lives.
Dr. Wendy Mihm-Herold, Northeast Iowa Community College
Dr. Wendy Mihm-Herold has served as Vice President of Business and Community Solutions for Northeast Iowa Community College since 2010. She has extensive experience in fundraising, grant writing, grant administration, building innovative partnerships, and public relations. She is a leader in establishing partnerships with employers, economic development organizations, chambers, and community groups. She was instrumental in starting 10 Business Community Sector Boards that generate ideas to address how businesses, educators, and economic development can partner to build human capital skills.
Coretha Montouth, Hawkeye Community College
Coretha Montouth has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Upper Iowa University. She is currently employed as a Workforce Development Specialist for Hawkeye Community College. She is certified to teach soft skill classes such as ‘Real Colors’, ‘Workin’ it Out’, ‘Bring your ‘A’ Game ’, and ‘Fish Philosophy’. Coretha is currently teaching a Customer Service Certification class at Hawkeye Community College’s Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center. She teaches ‘Bring Your ‘A’ Game’ at Hawkeye Community College’s main campus monthly. She has taught workshops to assist individuals with resumes, cover letters, and interviewing skills. Teaching is Coretha’s true passion and you can find enjoyment and success through the classes she has taught by how her students have responded. Coretha has had the privilege of teaching at other organizations such as Friends of The Family. Her greatest joy is empowering individuals to identify their strengths, understand the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and personal accountability; how taking a risk garners success and most of all never giving up!
Courtney Mullen, IowaWORKS Burlington
Courtney is an experienced Youth Employment and Training Specialist who has recently moved into the role
of Region 16 Title I Co-Director. She has a history of working in higher education, workforce, and within a policy-driven program. She’s passionate about helping under-resourced individuals and assisting youth reach their goals.
Kylie Murphy, Hawkeye Community College-IowaWORKS Cedar Valley
Kylie Murphy graduated from The University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Social Work. She has experience working
with a variety of clients in a social work capacity including at-risk youth, adults, and children with varying disabilities, and those with severe mental illness. She also currently works as a Disability Resource Coordinator for Hawkeye Community College at IowaWORKS in Waterloo assisting clients in our Ticket to Work Program to plan for their future and meet their employment goals.
Charlene Nicoletto, Eastern Iowa Community College
Charlene Nicoletto has worked for Eastern Iowa Community College since 2013 and has been serving High School Equivalency and English Language Learners in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program at Clinton Community College. She is now serving as a PACE Career Navigator working with ABE students and college students. Her responsibilities include being support for the students as they enroll and continue through the High School Equivalency program, while transitioning to college, or while exploring career options the student chooses to pursue, as well as helping students make connections to Core Partners for additional support and assistance in their respective programs. Additionally, in her role as PACE Career Navigator, Charlene advises students who are in PACE college programs, while at the same time also making referrals to Core Partners, as needed.
Dr. Celina Peerman
Dr. Celina Peerman serves as an organizational behavior specialist with over 25 years of experience from front line to senior level positions, in a wide range of industries and organizations. She is passionate about engaging our human resources in innovative ways to achieve even better organizational results, ultimately serving others with great care and compassion. Celina’s passion is for how people behave at work; the good, the bad and the worst. Her style has been described as dynamic noting the ability to draw in even the most resistant attendees through real life examples and humor. Celina lives in Waverly with her husband David of 25 years and two teenage daughters, a whole experience in behavior all by itself.
Brenna Schaefer, Hawkeye Community College-IowaWORKS Cedar Valley
Brenna Schaefer graduated from The University of Iowa with a degree in Health, Leisure, Sports Studies. She has worked in various community and clinical settings providing services to people with various disabilities, including extensive experience with people with brain injuries. Brenna is currently employed by Hawkeye Community College at IowaWORKS Cedar Valley, working as a Disability Resource Coordinator assisting customers working towards their educational and career goals under the Disability Employment Initiative and the Ticket to Work Program.
Jennifer Seil, Iowa Correctional Institute for Women
Jennifer Seil is a Re-Entry Advisor at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women (ICIW) and an Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) certified by the National Institute of Corrections. She received her BS from Simpson College and has a Masters in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. She worked for the Iowa Department of Corrections for five years at ICIW and one year with the Fifth Judicial District.
Shawn Story, Kirkwood Community College
Shawn Story is the ESL Program Supervisor at Kirkwood Community College. He has seven years of teaching experience in higher education teaching English as a Second Language, English as a Foreign Language, and University Spanish and three years in K-12 education as an English Language Learning instructor at Clear Creek Amana Schools in Eastern Iowa. Shawn has worked in educational institutions throughout Europe, Central America, and Asia and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in China (2013-2015). He specializes in the fields of cross-cultural competencies, communication with English learners, and the second language acquisition process.
Dane Sulentic, Iowa Department of Corrections
Dane Sulentic is the Apprenticeship Coordinator for the Iowa Department of Corrections, and has been in the role for one year. Dane oversees 24 registered programs and over 320 registered apprentices throughout the state of Iowa. Dane works with both incarcerated individuals within the correctional facilities and employers to help remove barriers and bridge the gap from incarceration to employment for apprentices upon their release. Previously, Dane worked with Iowa Workforce Development as an Employability Services Specialist and also with Des Moines Public Schools teaching employability skills to students at risk of graduating. Dane received his undergraduate degree from Central College in Pella, IA and his Masters in Public Administration and Business Administration from Bellevue University and Upper Iowa University, respectively. Dane is also certified through the National Institute of Corrections as an Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS).
Krista Tedrow, Ottumwa Job Corps
Krista Tedrow was born into poverty to incarcerated parents and went through the foster care system. She was able to break out of the poverty, addiction, and incarceration cycle through higher education and employability programs. She has been advocating for at-risk youth to get education and training to find success for the past five years through a unique partnership between Job Corps, Indian Hills, and Iowa Workforce Development. Krista is a member of the Iowa Workforce Development Youth Standing Committee.
Kelly Timmerman, IowaWORKS Burlington
Kelly Timmerman is a Workforce Advisor at the Burlington IowaWORKS office. She has been a state of Iowa employee for 20 years. Kelly is the Region 16 Subject Matter Expert for Unemployment, a Rapid Response team member, the business services representative for Registered Apprenticeships, an integrated business services team member, the Trade contact person for TRA, and the job order contact person for Lee County. Kelly facilitates the Registered Apprenticeship workshop, assists customers with writing resumes, filling out job applications, and much more. Kelly is a graduate from Western Illinois University with a degree in Psychology.
Michelle Vandenberg, Region 16 Keokuk
Michelle Vandenberg is a Career Advisor/Rapid Response Coordinator for Region 16 with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in Keokuk, Iowa. She has been employed with Southeastern Community College for 25 years. She has coordinated grants such as the Emergency Public Jobs in 1993, 1998, 2001 and 2008. She facilitates many workshop classes assisting customers with writing resumes, filling out job applications, and interviewing techniques. She currently is a nationally Certified Work Ethic Trainer and Real Colors Facilitator. Michelle is an active member as a Certified Workforce Development Professional since 2005. Michelle has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Buena Vista University and a minor in Music.
Paul Vogt, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Paul Vogt is in his seventh year as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with IVRS in Clinton and Jackson counties. Previously, he worked for three and a half years in the same role with Wisconsin’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. His work with job candidates with disabilities focuses on transition students ranging in age from 14 to 24 with a focus on developing self-advocacy skills needed to succeed at work as an adult. He has both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation psychology and special education from the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
Shannon Weaver, IowaWORKS Southeast Iowa
Shannon Weaver is an Employment and Training Specialist with WIOA Title I at IowaWORKS Southeast Iowa. She works primarily in the Youth program. She has worked in human services for 22 years and most of her experience is with justice-involved individuals and those with substance use disorders.
Kochell Weber-Ricklefs, Iowa Department for the Blind
Kochell Weber-Ricklefs serves as an Employment Specialist for the Iowa Department for the Blind. Her work experiences include the occupations of human resources, accounting, business management, retail, policy administration, disability accommodation review, and consulting. Speaking experiences include presenting to employers and partners regarding how to successfully hire and retain a viable workforce and disability awareness. She holds a Masters of Public Administration from Drake University, along with a Certification of Professional Human Resources (PHR). Kochell served in the financial industry for over 18 years helping consumers manage funds and establish control over spending. Since 2008, she has worked in vocational rehabilitation with Iowa Department for the Blind and Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Along with her philosophy of helping people, she served on the Iowa Credit Union League Board of Directors with the mission of helping Iowans have a better understanding of what they can do to become vocationally and financially successful in their own lives.
Cindy Wetterlind, Iowa Western Workforce Development
Cindy works for Iowa Western Community College Workforce Development as a Title I Specialist. She has over 23 years of experience guiding adults, youth, and dislocated workers with their educational and career goals. At this time, she carries a caseload of mainly Adults and Dislocated Workers. Cindy is a graduate of Northwest Missouri State University with a bachelor’s degree and is a Bachelor Licensed Social Worker. She facilitates workshops for businesses and schools including Generations and Supervisor Boot Camp. She is A Game Certified as well as Nationally Certified as a True Colors and Real Colors Trainer, facilitates WARN Rapid Response events in the region, and assists with job fairs in the local area.
Terry Zmolek, Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility
Terry Zmolek is a Re-Entry Advisor at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility and an Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) certified by the National Institute of Corrections. He received his BS from Iowa Wesleyan University and is retired from the United States Navy. He has over 14 years in the Iowa Department of Corrections as an Officer at the Iowa Medical Classification Center (IMCC) and has over two years’ experience working for Iowa Workforce Development.