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BIG Team

BIG staff constantly read, learn about and discuss current and emerging neuroscience and use that information to adjust and tailor their work to ensure we have the best possible chance to impact a student’s growth and development.

Mark Matson

Mark has always been passionate about student engagement in learning. Mark says, “BIG offers any student the opportunity to partner with our community to create something awesome that he/she is passionate about. Seeing students’ passions come to life in real-world projects is exciting and transforming the way students view their communities.” Mark is an undeserving husband to Amber, father of three wonderful children (Megan, Mackenna, & Tate), and an avid outdoorsman and golfer who enjoys watching Tate golf and spending time with family at their cabin on a lake.

Dennis Becker

Social Studies
Dennis mentors BIG’s students in connecting their passions and projects to rigorous social studies curriculum. Dennis says, “I want students to see all the opportunities that the Creative Corridor has to offer and cultivate relationships that benefit both the student and our community.” Dennis is excited about the opportunity that BIG students have to build their personal brand and develop the grit necessary to be successful in our ever-changing world. Dennis has a wonderful wife, Jenny, and two children, Charlie and Jonathan and two wonderpups, Lucy, and George Woofington. Dennis is an avid listener of podcasts and a voracious learner.

Nate Pruett

Nate Pruett


Nate helps students explore and embrace their passions, connecting those passions with the innovative people in the professional and community-based settings of Iowa’s Creative Corridor. Nate says, “I hope to help students discover things about themselves and their community, while creating a clearer vision of their current and future possibilities.” Nate is a geek who loves “different” music, comics, hockey, and cheese (lots and lots of different cheeses). Nate is blessed with an amazing wife, Christy, and two wonderfully goofy children, Cole and Audrey.

Shawn Cornally

Shawn Cornally

Math & Science


Shawn helps students turn passions and projects into reality. Shawn says, “I want any family whose students are interested to have the option to attend a school like BIG so that their teenager can truly differentiate themselves and learn what it feels like to be a do-er.” Shawn cures his own bacon, researches gravitation, does professional woodworking as a side hustle, and loves teaching. Shawn has a beautiful wife, Lianna, and 3 children, Lenora, Julian, and Griffin. The Cornally’s manage many plants and animals on their 2 acres.

Trace Pickering

Trace Pickering

Executive Director
Trace founded Iowa BIG with his colleague and friend, Shawn Cornally. He is the administrator of record for the school, advises students, coaches staff, and acquires the resources and professional development to ensure student and staff success.Trace says, “BIG strives to be a model for what human-centered education and systems can look like. Every learner – adult and teenager – deserve to find and pursue their passions and they can do that here at BIG.”. Trace and his wife, Kim, live on a 5 acre “ranch” with their German Shepherd, Stella, where they aspire to become “zero carbon” and grow most of their own food. They have two grown daughters, Samie, a leadership support specialist for Hummer Trucking and Shelby, an electrical engineer with Alliant Energy.

Al O'Bannon

Leadership Coach

Alphonce O’Bannon (Al) is a small business owner and a Certified School Counseling Leadership Specialist, recognized by the American School Counseling Association. Al says, “It is critical that a young person find their purpose and passion and I love watching their potential unfold when those things come into focus.” Al is the founder of a local non-profit called Leaders Believers Achievers Foundation (LBA). For the last seven years, Al has counseled hundreds of students and families to understand and develop purpose. Al has two kids and lives in Cedar Rapids. Al’s motto when it comes to motivation is “Always stay in Beast Mode!”