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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.

Becky Herman

Social Studies

Becky rejoins the BIG staff after a one year detour as a Teacher Leader at Marion High School. Becky enjoys spending time with her daughter, Stori, camping, and working on their acreage with her husband Jason. She enjoys mentoring learners as they journey into adulthood and has a passion for mixing geography and history. She is an avid sports fan, loves music and theater, and is a member of a local, semi-professional pub trivia team. She believes that young adults are the most under-utilized resource in our society and she strives to give a voice and a hand to those young people who’d like to make the world a better place.

Trace Pickering

Trace Pickering

Co-Founder & Director Emeritus

Trace founded Iowa BIG with his colleague and friend, Shawn Cornally. Trace hands over the reigns of BIG to Mr. Dan DeVore in the 22-23 school year. Trace’s role will be advisory as he moves towards retirement. 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.They have two grown daughters, Samie, a corporate events manager for Don 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!”