Hello! My name is Benjamin LaConner and I am the principal of Samuelson Elementary. I love being part of the Samuelson community due to our student-centered practices, dedicated families, and committed staff. We are proud to teach a diverse group of students and we believe that this diversity makes our community stronger and improves the learning that happens in our building. I enjoy working with our partner schools in the Hoover-Meredith feeder-pattern and throughout DMPS to meet the ambitious goals that we have for our students.
I hold Master’s degrees from The City University of Seattle and Northwestern College. I’m passionate about providing holistic supports and making school systems meet student needs. It’s important to me to create meaningful connections with students, families, staff, and community members. I love that Samuelson is a neighborhood school and I want to continue to build on this strength.
Personally, I live in the Drake neighborhood with my wife, Kristina. We like to bike, read, and spend time with our extended family.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if I can support you in any way. Welcome to Samuelson!
Hi! My name is Denine Larson. I have been a part of Samuelson since 2018 and am thrilled to be teaching first grade. My prior experience at Samuelson has been as a reading interventionist. I graduated from Fort Hays State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. I received my Master’s of Science Degree at Emporia State University as a Reading Specialist/Master Teacher in 2008 and Licensure for Building Level Administrator in 2016. In addition, I earned National Board Certification in Literacy in 2004 and renewed again in 2014. I have a passion for learning and work hard to instill a love of learning in my students.
I am married and have two daughters living in the Kansas City area. My husband and I moved to Des Moines in 2018 from KC where I was a Reading Specialist for 13 years. Previously I taught 2nd and 3rd grade for 7 years. We love to explore all that Des Moines has to offer, especially the outdoors. I also enjoy traveling, reading, Zumba,, spending time with family and friends, and teaching my students at Samuelson. Establishing relationships with students and families is a priority to me and I look forward to making connections as we have a wonderful school year!
Hello! My name Claire Park and this is my second year in 3rd grade. I am so excited for a year full of learning and fun. I grew up in the Quad Cities, then moved to Iowa City for college (Go Hawks!). At the University of Iowa, I graduated with a BSE in Elementary Education and an endorsement in reading. I am planning to enroll at Drake University to begin my Masters in Culturally Relevant teaching. I am excited to expand my knowledge and grow as a teacher.
I believe creating a space with the student where they feel safe, brave, and supported throughout the year. I want students to feel brave to take risks in their learning so that we can grow together as a classroom. I am so excited to teach and learn alongside every bright mind that walks through my classroom door.
Hello! My name is Diane Conzemius. I have been teaching at Samuelson for 10 years. I previously taught kindergarten and preschool. I graduated from Upper Iowa with a BA in Elementary Education with endorsements in early childhood and reading. I also, have a Master’s in Differentiated Instruction from Graceland University.
My husband and I have seven grown children and eight grandkids. Last year we moved to Des Moines from Ames. I love spending time with my family, gardening and supporting the Hawkeyes and Minnesota Vikings. A priority for me is to build good relationships with my students and their families.
Hi! My name is Katie Baker. I began teaching for Des Moines Public Schools in 2000. I taught 2nd grade for many years and currently teach Kindergarten. I’m married and we have two teenage daughters. I love gardening indoors and out, spending time with family, and have a passion for reading. Looking forward to another fantastic year at Samuelson.