Discover the Difference: A Fond Farewell to All Our Retirees

by Diocese of Des Moines | May 3, 2022

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Ellen Stemler, principal at St. Theresa Catholic School, will retire at the end of this school year after more than 32 years innull Catholic education. Stemler grew up in Des Moines and is the product of Catholic education, having attended both Holy Trinity Catholic School and Dowling Catholic High School. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Iowa State University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Drake University. During her tenure with St. Theresa Catholic School, she led several STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives to position the school as a leader in STEM education. Her efforts earned the school local, regional and national recognition for its PK-8 integrated STEM education.

"I have loved every moment of this amazing journey because of the people. I have been blessed to watch children learn, overcome obstacles, succeed, and soar! I have worked with the best educators and staff," exclaimed Stemler. "The opportunities given to me by St. Theresa and the diocese have been an important part of my life and for that, I am very grateful and humbled."

Stemler and her husband Denny are the proud parents of four children who attended Catholic schools in Des Moines. She is also the proud grandmother of nine - one of whom is the fourth generation student at Dowling Catholic.

Although Stemler will be dearly missed, the diocese is pleased to announce Gretchen Watznauer will be the new school administrator at St. Theresa Catholic School for the 2022-2023 school year. Watznauer brings more than 25 years of experience in education, having served as an assistant administrator at St. Francis of Assisi, a classroom teacher for Des Moines Public Schools and Waukee Community Schools, and a program coordinator with the Iowa Department of Education. 

Also retiring is Mary Jo Kever, of St. Pius X School in Urbandale. A product of Catholic education and a Dowling Catholicnull graduate, Kever has spent 37 years in Catholic education. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Iowa State University, a Master's Degree in Teaching and Learning from Drake University, and a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from Drake University. Adept at curriculum design and faculty development, Kever promotes excellence at St. Pius by integrating strong curriculum instruction into a Christ-centered environment for the benefit of all students.

"I have enjoyed getting to know so many wonderful students and families over the years," exclaimed Kever. "The friendships I have made with colleagues and families have enriched my life beyond the school walls. The Catholic school community in the Des Moines Diocese is very special."

Kever is the proud mother of two daughters who attended Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools and graduated from Dowling Catholic. She also has a school-aged grandson who currently attends St. Pius, making him the third generation of her family to attend a Catholic school in the diocese.

Kever leaves St. Pius in capable hands as Alex Baranosky will be the new school administrator at for the 2022-2023 school year. Baranosky brings more than a decade of experience in education as a classroom teacher at Dowling Catholic High School and as an assistant administrator at St. Pius X Catholic School.

The Diocese of Des Moines is grateful for the many years of dedicated service to Catholic education by Stemler and Kever, and we wish them well in their future endeavors. The Diocese would also like to wish the following educators and staff well in their retirements. May God Bless each and every one of these individuals and we thank them for their exemplary service to Catholic education and schools across the diocese.

Dowling Catholic High School

Peter Ause, English Teacher – 32 years


Holy Trinity Catholic School

null  Mary Riordan, Middle School English Teacher – 45 years




St. Theresa Catholic School



  • Denise Clark, Kindergarten Teacher – 35 years
  • Mary Hingtgen, Fourth Grade Teacher – 27 years
  • Mary Baker, Office Staff – 12 years
  • Dennis Minard, Custodian – 26 years


St. Augustin Catholic School

nullPam Moore, Lunch Director – 25 years




St. Malachy Catholic School

nullMelody Stoner, Music Teacher – 41 years in education, 7 years at St. Malachy




Sacred Heart Catholic School

null null null null

  • Barb Baker, Middle School Math Teacher – 25 years in education, 17 years at Sacred Heart
  • Jay Flaws, Physical Education Teacher – 41 years
  • Michelle Duer, Third Grade Teacher – 25 years in education, 7 years at Sacred Heart
  • Becky Grenier, Food Service – 24 years


St. Albert Catholic School

nullKen Schreiber, Athletic Director – 40 years




The Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools includes 16 schools in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa. Catholic schools in the Des Moines Diocese build Christ-centered, collaborative, inclusive partnerships with parents, students, and parishes to provide innovative academic excellence and inspirational faith formation for students. To learn more about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Des Moines, visit or email

Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.