Staff Bios

unnamed2-169x300Toni Fuller Merfeld, M.S.Ed., is the President/Managing Member of Metro West Learning Center. She has been in the field of education for 35 years and has extensive experience working with students on the autism spectrum with learning and behavior challenges both in the classroom and as a consultant in the public and private sectors. She has been trained in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and in structuring classrooms for students with Autism using the TEACHH model developed by the University of North Carolina. Her experience in ABA teaching strategies provide students with the individualization of instruction necessary to create a meaningful learning experience for students and parents alike. In addition to her work at Metro West Learning Center, she is the past Executive Board Secretary for the International Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD), past President, Iowa Council for Exceptional Children; and was the Children’s Mental Health Consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. She is a member of CEC’s Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities and the Division on International Special Education, The Association of Positive Behavior Supports, National Autism Society and the Iowa Autism Society. She also sits on the Regional Autism Program (RAP) Advisory Committee and RAP Expert Panel.

img_6201-269x300Candice Fedeler, MA ED., Director of Programming holds a degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Northern Iowa and completed her course work in Applied Behavior Analysis from the Chicago School of Psychology. She worked for Des Moines Public Schools as a Behavior Interventionist for grades K-5. Candice has been trained in ABA, Verbal Behavior, Lindamood-Bell Visualizing Verbalizing and Seeing Stars, TEACCH, Picture Exchange Communication Systems, and other communication devices. She is well-versed in Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) and has given several trainings to staff and families on how to implement with fidelity. Candice is as a Certified Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) Trainer and A Registered Behavior Technician. She is currently finishing up her 1500 Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) supervision hours and is projected to take the BCBA exam February 2019. Candice has a gift for identifying specific behavioral needs and working with families to develop structures to increase success at home and in the community.

img_6281-240x300Megan Brunk, Director of Operations, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from The University of Iowa. She has two Minors; one in Business Administration and one in Human Relations, which reflect her passion of working with people in administrative settings. She has worked in the insurance industry and brings a wealth of knowledge to the position as Director of Operations. Along with her business background, her professional experience includes four years as a Teacher’s Assistant, providing specialized care for diverse youth. She also worked for Camp Adventure® (a partner with the United States Department of Defense) spending time overseas in Germany as a Youth Camp Counselor on the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center military base. When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with family and friends (including her identical twin sister), baking, playing tennis, and walking the Iowa trails.

Dr. DeAnn L. Nerem, Psy.D. is a neuropsychologist, with an unique background in working with both pediatric and adult populations. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Iowa in Therapeutic Recreation Services, a Master’s of Science degree from Drake University in Agency Mental Health Counseling, and a Doctor of Psychology degree from Nova Southeastern University in Clinical Psychology with emphasis in neuropsychology. She completed an internship at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in clinical neuropsychology and pediatric psychology, and a three-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin in pediatric neuropsychology. Her pediatric populations have focused extensively on understanding the impact of neurological disorders on language and learning performance; in particular the relationship between learning disabilities and seizure disorders, traumatic brain injuries, Autism and ADHD disorders.  She is currently focusing on a systematic treatment approach for dysgraphia based on brain-behavior research. Her adult populations have focused on the cognitive effects of Multiple Sclerosis, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Dementia, and Vascular disease. She also conducts psychotherapy.

Dr. Nerem’s work experience includes seven years as a therapeutic recreational specialist at an inpatient pediatric mental health unit in Des Moines, IA, four years as a research assistant in a National Institute of Health NIDA/SAP grant evaluating drug exposed infants in Miami, FL., eight years as a neuropsychologist (adults) at the Ruan Neurology Clinic in Des Moines, IA. She started a private practice in Clinical Neuropsychology in 2009 servicing both adults and pediatrics from across Iowa. In 2015, she moved her practice to Metro West Learning Center, which afforded her the opportunity to expand the scope of her practice to include consultations in the educational system, conducting a young adult autism social group, and entry into Applied Behavioral Analysis.

Dr. Nerem has spoken at multiple conferences across Iowa educating professionals on brain-behavior relationships including the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Alzheimer’s Association of Iowa, IOTA conference, and School conferences.

img_6250-250x300Gloria Frolek Clark, PhD, OTR/L  BCP, Occupational Therapist, has a doctorate degree in Early Childhood from Iowa State University and is Board Certified in Pediatrics by the American Occupational Therapy Association. In addition to over 30 years in experience, she is certified in infant massage, sensory integration assessment, handwriting assessment and treatment, and evaluation & treatment of children with Neuro-developmental difficulties. She is a national presenter and has authored several chapters and papers on early childhood issues, autism, eating and feeding issues, hand skills and handwriting, daily living skills, visual perception/motor, and sensory processing. Gloria is married and has three adult children and four delightful grandchildren.

img_6163-227x300Amy Dannenfeltd, M.A., C.C.C. – Speech and Language Pathologist, holds a Master’s Degree in Speech –Language Pathology from the University of Northern Iowa .  Before taking time off to stay home with her kids, she worked for Heartland AEA 11 in the Knoxville and Pleasantville areas and the Omaha Public Schools.  Amy has worked with children ages 2-18 and has experience with a wide variety of speech and language disabilities.  In addition to providing speech and language therapy at Metro West, Amy works in private practice.  “I am excited to be a part of the Metro West Learning Center team.  I enjoy working closely with the families  to help improve the speech and language needs of each child.”

img_6169-236x300Andrea Krueger, Physical Therapist, received a degree in Biology at St. Ambrose University and received her Master’s in Physical Therapy degree at Des Moines University.  She has worked as a physical therapist in pediatrics for the past 11 years.  Andrea has experience with early intervention and school based physical therapy.  She worked for the MBAEA in Davenport, Iowa serving birth to 21 year old clients with diagnoses of Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delays, Genetic Defects and disorders, Down Syndrome, Autism, Muscular impairments, Traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other chronic illnesses.  Andrea and her family relocated to the Des Moines area and are happy to move closer to both sets of grandparents since they have two little boys, Blake and Bryce.

img_6289-245x300Megan (Coady) Mobley, CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Therapist who earned her Master’s Degree from the University of Northern Iowa. She has experience working in her field with both adults and children. She especially enjoys working with kids on the Autism spectrum. When she is not working, she enjoys biking, doing running competitions, and spending time with friends and family.

Nichole ClarkNichole Clark, M.A., BCBA is Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis with an emphasis in Autism from Ball State University. She has worked in the field of behavior analysis for five years as an ABA therapist providing one-on-one therapy, as well as conducting social skills groups and providing parent training. She has a passion for making a difference in our clients lives and loves teaching others about the field of Behavior Analysis. Nichole possesses strong leadership skills and enjoys training and supervising our Registered Behavior Technicians. She holds memberships with Association for Behavior Analysis International, Association of Professional Behavior Analysts, Iowa Association for Behavior Analysis, and Organizational Behavior Management Network. When she’s not working, she loves spending time with her family, friends and cat named Clarence. She also enjoys traveling, hiking, biking and being a part of the Des Moines social scene by attending concerts, checking out all things art, and trying new restaurants.

John PokrzywinskiJohn Pokrzywinski, MA, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, serves as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at Metro West Learning Center. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southern Illinois University in psychology and a Master of Arts, degree from Western Michigan University in psychology. He has been in the field of behavior analysis for 47 years and has extensive experience working with individuals in a variety of settings, who require applied behavior analysis services. John provides functional behavior assessments, behavior support program development, training for staff and families, professional fieldwork supervision, supervision of Registered Behavior Technicians, and consults on organizational behavior management issues. He is the BACB Approved Continuing Education Coordinator for the clinic. John is a member of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, the Professional Behavior Analysts, the Iowa Association for Behavior Analysis (Founder and Chair, 2008-2009, Vice-Chair 2010-2014), and the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, the Organizational Behavior Management Network, and the Association for the Advancement of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Roxanna Patterson, CCC-SLP, CLC, CWC, holds a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Northern Colorado. Her experience includes The JFK Center at the University of Colorado in Denver, Colorado, Baptist Hospital and Kershaw County Hospital in South Carolina, as well as the Department of Defense Middle School in Seoul, South Korea and Achieve Beyond Services in Westchester County, New York. Roxanna has worked with children ages 6 months to 18-years-old and has experience with a wide variety of speech and language disabilities. In addition to providing Speech and Language therapy at Metro West, Roxanna owns Career Confidence International, LLC,  where she provides accent reduction and career coaching for foreigners working in the U.S. or working for U.S. companies.  “I am delighted to be a part of the Metro West Learning Center team. The cooperative collaboration Metro West provides children and their families is an ideal environment for the most progress possible.”

Julie Dauterive, RBT, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Jacksonville University. She is currently seeking a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Ball State University to become a BCBA. She is certified as a Registered Behavior Technician.  She has over 10 years experience working in the field of Behavior Analysis, providing services at a private school, in home and clinical setting. Julie is married and has 4 children. Julie also has real life experience as a parent of a child with special needs.

Molly Warner, Speech Language Pathologist, holds a Master’s degree from Rockhurst University. Molly has experience working with children in a variety of settings including: schools, home-based early intervention, and outpatient rehabilitation.
Although she is no longer working within the school system, Molly strives to support the academic success and future endeavors of her students. Molly is passionate about helping children of all ages and abilities succeed. She enjoys being silly and making therapy a fun learning experience. When she is not working, Molly likes to spend time with her husband and dogs, crafting, and watching HGTV.

Ambrose Ball-Harney (1)Ambrose Ball-Harney, RBT, received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology along with a minor in Religious Studies from the University of Iowa. He has a long history of working in the Human Services field and greatly enjoys being here to help with whatever pops up during the day. When he’s not assisting in the office, Ambrose enjoys attending local artist events, going on walks, and cooking.

Justin “Rudy” Pithan graduated from Morningside College with a degree in elementary education and endorsements in special education, middle school, reading and coaching. He has more than 11 years of experience teaching in Arizona and Iowa. He was also a high school baseball coach for 14 years. He likes spending time with his boys and being outside. Rudy truly feels the work he is doing now is his calling. His favorite quote comes from the former UCLA men’s basketball coach, John Wooden, “It is amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit!”

img_6238-229x300Sue Anderson, Evening Office Assistant, has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, along with a Minor in Sociology from Grand View University. She has a passion for serving others and enjoys being here to serve our clients and families during the evening hours. With her strong business background, caring personality, and can-do attitude, she helps keep the office running smoothly.

Lindsey Burton, Evening Office Assistant, has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a Minor in Sociology from Simpson College. She enjoys helping clients and families, as well as assisting staff through the business office during the evening hours. Outside of Metro West, Lindsey works full-time and enjoys traveling and baking.

Natalie Bensley, Administrative Assistant, has education in both Early Childhood Special Education and Pre-Medical/Pre-Professional Health from The University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University.  She has 17 years’ experience in non-profit organizations working with Adult Intellectual Disability and Mental Health waiver services. Her time here at Metro West has been a refreshing change! She loves working and interacting with the families here. Seeing the kiddos make progress is extremely exciting! When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her son, Anthony, being outdoors, and making new recipes to share with others.

pCUjDVKOElyssa Appleton, Communications Consultant, is in charge of Metro West’s social and digital sites. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Iowa. She has more than half a dozen years in writing, editing, copy writing, public relations and and content management. She is the former director of VSA Iowa, a nonprofit that provides free arts programming for kids with disabilities.

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