Debra (Deb) Copeland
This is my 22nd year of teaching, all here at Merrill. I work with students who have math and behavior goals. My day is spent teaching social skills and co-teaching two 8th grade math classes. My goal is to help students reach their full potential and prepare them for high school.
I live in Clive with my husband and two girls. As a family we enjoy watching Gilmore Girls, Survivor, Amazing Race, and the Great British Baking Show together. In my spare time I enjoy reading, going on walks with our mini Goldendoodle, playing board games, and going on family vacations.
Hello Mustang Family! My name is Simone Freeman, also known as “Shapely Simone,” students call me
Ms. Simone. You might ask how I got the name “shapely?” Let me define it for you: orderly and
consistent in arrangement, well-proportioned, developed, and symmetrical. It is a catchy way to
remember my name but more importantly it is how I describe my passion for helping to shape the
future of our youth. I have been employed with DMPS for over 20 years. My journey began as a case
manager with the SUCCESS Program at Hiatt Middle School and next as an Academic Advisor for the
GEAR UP program at Hiatt and Hoyt Middle School and North High School then a special education case
manager for District Wide Programs serving All Points Academy and Focus High School. I am a proud
graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Go Huskers! My husband, Rory (“The Survivor”) and our
two children Zion & Irie along with our dog Tank keep me busy and active.
Over my years of service working with students I have been motivated both by the twinkle and the
sadness I have seen in their eyes. My desire and hope are to keep the twinkle going for those who have
it and replace sadness and apathy with a twinkle, for those who do not. My motto is I Am Special, I
Count, I Have Worth.
The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” originates from an African proverb and conveys the
message that it takes many people to provide a safe, healthy environment for children where children
are given the security they need to develop and flourish, and to be able to realize their hopes and
dreams. As the Community School Coordinator, I will work with our Merrill community of people to be
present, active, and accountable to support our students in whatever way possible. Families, schools,
community groups and agencies working together can achieve more than either can working alone.
These supportive connections and principles will serve as the framework from which new initiatives
could be developed and existing programs evaluated. I look forward to striving together to create a
village for our students and our community to thrive.
A fun fact about me: I was a reggae DJ for a local radio station
William (Bill) Hendricks
Joe Lawler is a former journalist, in his second year with DMPS. This is his first year teaching at Merrill, but he did once walk the school’s halls as a student. He enjoys comic books, video games, watching terrible movies and spending time with his two kids, wife, and tiny dog.
This year will be my 6th year with Des Moines Public Schools. I began teaching at Roosevelt High School in 2017 after graduating from Drake University. I moved to Merrill in 2021 and love the community and students, especially with connections to the students I worked with at Roosevelt. When I am not teaching, I enjoy spending time at home with my boyfriend and our dog Peanut. We recently moved to a new house in the Waveland Park neighborhood and have spent lots of time exploring and making it home! I also love running, yoga, and any activity that brings me outdoors.
Deb Marriott was raised on a farm in Tama County, graduated from ISU and taught science for DMPS from 1976 to 2016 . She and her husband adopted 2 sons from Thailand (now in their 30’s).
Kathryn (Katie) Pilcher
Gabrielle (Gabby) Smithman
Hello! My name is Danielle Taylor, and I am excited to be serving as one of the Instructional Coaches here at Merrill. I am an Iowa State graduate (Go Cyclones!) and received my master’s degree in Administration from Viterbo University. The 2022-23 school year will be my 19th year in DMPS. I began my journey as a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher for my first 11 years and have enjoyed my time partnering with teachers and students all across the building as a coach for the past 7 years. At Merrill, you will catch me in many of your classrooms, the halls and the lunchroom – be sure to say HI! I also lead our Best Buddies crew and love spending time with our group! I have an 8th grade son and two dogs at home who keep me busy! I enjoy watching my son play basketball, reading, hitting the gym, catching live music, biking and traveling in my free time… the beach is my happy place 😊 I look forward to meeting you throughout the year, Go Mustangs!!!