The primary mission of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education (IAAE) is to increase awareness, recognition, and support of policies, practices, and partnerships that ensure and advance quality arts education for all Iowans.


Leon Kuehner

Executive Director

Leon Kuehner received his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Music Education from the University of Northern Iowa.  He has been president of the Iowa Bandmasters Association, state chair of the American School Band Directors Association, and state chair of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education.  He has served on the Iowa Music Educators Association board and is a past-president of the Executive Board of the Iowa High School Music Association.   He serves on the Fine Arts Leadership Team for the Iowa Department of Education and is the Co-Administrator of the IAAE mentorship program.  Concert bands under his direction at Hampton-Dumont were selected to perform at the Iowa Bandmasters Conference six times. He was the instrumental music chair for the Fine Arts Standards Adoption Team.  In July of 2013, he became the Executive Director of IAAE.   

He is the recipient of the Karl King Distinguished Service Awards for active and retired IBA members.   He has also been named a “Distinguished Alumnus” of the University of Northern Iowa School of Music.   In 2012, he was named the national winner of the National Federation of High School Association’s Citation for contributions to music education. He directed concert bands at Wartburg College from 2020-2022.  In 2023, he was awarded the Governor’s Arts Education award by the Iowa Arts Council. He currently teaches music education classes for the North Iowa Area Community College and the University of Iowa.

Jayson Gerth


Jayson Gerth is currently band director and teacher leader at Southeast Polk High School in Pleasant HIll, IA where he leads the award winning jazz program, directs the SEP Concert Band, and shares the directorship of the Marching Rams. He holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Drake University and a Master of Music degree from the University of Wyoming.

Mr. Gerth is former principal tubist of the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra, and since 2005, dozens of students from his low brass studio have been accepted into the Iowa All State Bands and Orchestras.  He received the 2000 Casper (WY) Star-Tribune “Star Teacher” Award, and was recognized by the Natrona County (WY) School District as an “Outstanding Educator” in 2002 and 2004. He was a nominee for the Grammy Music Educator of the Year Award in 2013, and in 2019 was named a “Favorite Teacher” by the Iowa Governor’s Scholar Recognition Program. The Iowa Bandmasters Association honored Jayson with the Karl King Distinguished Service Award for Active Educators in 2021.

Mr. Gerth was the 2019-20 President of the Iowa Bandmasters Association, and is a Past President of the Northeast Wyoming Music Educators Association and the South Central Iowa Bandmasters Association. He is an elected member of the American School Band Directors Association and a member of Phi Mu Alpha Professional Music Fraternity. He lives in Ankeny, Iowa with his wife Krista, daughter Abby, and sons Tyler and Nathan.

Dan Black

Dan Black currently serves as an orchestra teacher in the Council Bluffs Community School District and as a member of the Iowa Department of Education Fine Arts Leadership Team.  As an innovator in curriculum and instruction, Dan remains an active presenter at music education conferences on topics such as culturally responsive pedagogy, technology integration, differentiation of instruction, and innovative approaches to leading and teaching traditional ensemble music programs.  With a student-centered mindset and a drive to create a more inclusive and creative classroom for today’s students, programs led by Dan Black have seen large increases in student enrollment and achievement.

Before coming to Council Bluffs, he served on the Iowa Fine Arts Standards Adoption Team, taught middle and high school bands in Red Oak, Iowa; Nebraska City, Nebraska; and Springville, Iowa.  While teaching, Dan Black also served as Secondary Technology Coordinator in Springville, then as a PreK-5 Instructional Technology Coach and as a Secondary Lead Teacher in Red Oak.  Dan Black holds degrees in music education (B.M.) and school leadership (M.A.E.) from the University of Northern Iowa.y

Sarah Schaefer

Past Chair

Sarah Schaefer currently teaches and directs at Waukee Middle School where she has taught 6-8 Speech/Theatre courses for the last 23 years. She started her teaching career teaching 7th-12 grade Language Arts, Speech and English at Ventura Community Schools in northern Iowa. A graduate of Loras College, with a masters in Theatre from the University of Northern Iowa, Sarah has been involved in theatre since she was putting on plays in the back yard with her sister in Bellevue, Iowa. In addition to serving on the IAAE Board, she is a member of the Iowa Fine Arts Leadership Team and a curriculum facilitator for Speech/Theatre at Waukee Schools. 

Shanise Brockshus


Shanise Brockshus currently teaches 8th-9th grade visual art and is a teacher leader at Johnston Middle School in Johnston, IA.  She holds a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Illinois University and a Bachelors of Arts degree from Grand View University in K-12 visual art. She taught in rural schools in Northwest Iowa including Pocahontas, Sibley-Ocheyedan, and Harris Lake Park serving as the art department for each. 

Shanise has benefited greatly from membership in IAAE.  She attended the IAAE Leadership Institute as a beginning teacher and is now a fine arts leader and life-long advocate for Fine Arts education.  Committee and presenter for the IAAE Leadership Institute Presenter and served on the advisory committee and presenter for the Iowa Fine Arts Summit. 

She is an active member of the National Art Education Association and the Art Educators of Iowa.  She has served as the Iowa delegate at NAEA, Past President, President, President-Elect, and Northwest Iowa Representative for AEI.  She was instrumental in the restructuring of the AEI board and the implementation of the AEI Board Leadership Retreat.  She was a contributing member of the Iowa Core Curriculum Fine Arts and Professional Development Committee by providing guidance, writing exemplars, and leading presentations to fine arts educators across the state.  

Jennifer Gaesser


Jennifer Gaesser serves as the 9-12 Vocal Music Director at Creston Community Schools.  She is a graduate of Wayne State College (Wayne, NE), where she received her degree in K-12 Instrumental and Vocal Music Education.  In 2004 she won the Cherokee Symphony Young Artist Competition and was the recipient of the Wayne State College Outstanding Applied Major Award.

After graduating from college, she accepted her first job at Winterset Middle/Junior High where she taught 6th-grade general music, 6th-8th grade choirs, and a few band lessons.  After Winterset Ms. Gaesser moved on to teaching high school vocal music for Atlantic and Pella Schools.  During her time at each of these schools, she directed choral ensembles, show choirs, musicals, and had over 20 students selected for the Iowa All-State Chorus.

Ms. Gaesser is now excited about her newest adventure, teaching vocal music at Creston, where she directs three choral ensembles and the High School musical.

Outside of school, Jennifer is an active member of the Iowa Choral Directors and an executive board member of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education.  In her free time, she enjoys reading books, golfing, kayaking, and singing.


Jackie Burk

Jackie Burk taught music education in the public schools for 36 years until taking early retirement in 2014. She is the Past President of the Iowa Music Educators Association. She is currently adjunct professor/collaborative pianist at Waldorf University and NIACC. She is organist, chancel choir and bell choir director at Trinity Lutheran Church in Belmond. She accompanies group travel for GNTT.

Helen Duranleau-Brennan

Helen Duranleau-Brennan is a former Theatre, Speech and English educator. In addition to the classroom, Helen served as an Iowa Thespians troupe director at Assumption High School and Davenport North High School in Davenport, Iowa. 

Helen served on the Iowa Thespian board for several years, including five years as Chapter Director. She currently serves the board as Advocacy Director, and as a member of the Leadership Day committee.

In addition, Helen is a member of EdTA’s Advocacy Leadership Network, and has served on the advisory board for the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education. Helen has also served on the national EdTA board of directors, and is the current president.

Professionally, Helen is an educational consultant at Mississippi Bend Area Educational Agency. Her responsibilities include Secondary Literacy, Arts, Social Studies and Title III.

Adam Orban

Adam Orban is the 9-12 vocal music instructor at Algona High School in Algona, IA. He directs the curricular choirs, jazz choirs, and prepares students for all other vocal music activities. 

Adam is a graduate of Morningside College and received his Master’s in Music Education from the University of South Dakota. He started teaching grades 6-12 for the Shenandoah CSD and also started the program’s jazz choir. Following his time in Shenandoah he spent eight years teaching for the Sheldon CSD where he taught grades 7-12 and again started a vocal jazz program and evolved the existing show choir program. 

Over the years, students under Adam’s direction have received numerous awards and accolades; these include 1st Place finishes in jazz choir (including 1st Place at the Iowa Vocal Jazz Championships in 2015), 1st place and finals appearances for show choir, over 50 all-staters, and several Outstanding Performances at the IHSMA solo/ensemble festival. 

Adam has been a guest clinician for multiple events and his conducting honors include directing the 9th Grade Mixed Opus Honor Choir in 2013. Lastly, Adam was selected as winner of the Iowa Choral Directors Association/Iowa Composers Forum Composition Contest winner in 2017 for his composition “Hush Thee My Babie.” Adam is happily married to his wife and fellow music colleague, Jill, and they have four children together: Owen, Ethan, Natalie, and Isaac.

Kathleen Sweet

Kathleen Sweet currently resides in Decorah, Iowa with her husband, 15 year old son and four pets. She received a Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA) degree from Savannah of College of Art and Design, her teaching license in Art Education from Metropolitan State University of Denver, and a Masters (MEd) degree from Lesley University. 

She has taught Preschool through twelfth grade in various settings over the last 27 years. She has been teaching Kindergarten through Sixth-grade art and Kindergarten through twelfth-grade ELP (Extended Learning Program for Gifted and Talented) at Starmont for the last 15 years. 

She is currently serving as the Starmont’s K-12 Student Improvement Coordinator, TLC Coordinator, and K-12 Gifted and Talented Coordinator. She has been part of a national research group called The Innovation Collaborative that focuses on STEAM education and transdisciplinary creative teaching, and was awarded Iowa Art Educator of the Year in 2015. She loves all things art related and her art consists of drawing, painting, collage and jewelry making.


Maddison Maddock, Art Educators of Iowa

Nick Oswald, Iowa Choral Directors Association

Jean Schilling, Iowa Association of School Boards

Cindy Herndon, Iowa Dance

Suzanne Jones, Iowa Communications Association

Cliff St. Clair, Iowa Bandmasters Association

Byron Tinder, Iowa Bandmasters Association

Kathryn Swinbank, Iowa String Teachers Association

Zack Howell, Iowa Music Educators Association

Dave Krogan, Iowa Association of School Music Dealers

Thad Driskell, Iowa High School Music Association

Liz Hansen, Iowa Thespians

Kris Ver Steegt, Fine Arts Consultant, Iowa Department of Education