Gretchen grew up on a family farm outside of Macomb, Illinois, with her parents and two brothers. The family ran a large hog operation in addition to farming corn and soybeans.
Gretchen graduated from Macomb Senior High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society. She then attended Western Illinois University and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in bilingual/bicultural education in 1996. During college, she was president of the bilingual education student organization, ran on the cross country and track teams and received academic awards, including the Outstanding Pre-Service Teaching Award. She earned admittance to the professional organizations of Phi Kappa Phi, Delta Kappa Pi and Alpha Upsilon Alpha.
While attending college, Gretchen met her husband, Nick. The couple has lived in Marion since 1996 and now has two daughters, Maria, 9; and April, 5.
Gretchen became involved in child-centered services soon after she moved to Iowa. After student teaching in Davenport, she began work for the YWCA of Linn County as a lead program instructor for the School Age Child Care Program. Later that year, she taught English as a Second Language in Iowa City Community Schools. Gretchen then taught third grade in Cedar Rapids Community Schools. Her developing interest in technology in education led her to pursue a master’s degree specializing in instructional technology. She earned her Master of Arts in Education degree from the University of Northern Iowa in 2007.
In 2002, Gretchen took a leave from teaching to stay at home with her two young children. She became a member of the First United Methodist Church in Marion after several years of regular attendance and volunteered with its Christian Education program. She worked with the Emerson School Parent Group and volunteered for fieldtrips, organized class parties, tutored students in reading and helped write a grant that supplied sets of books for the school library. Now she volunteers weekly at Francis Marion Intermediate School grading math assessments.
An avid runner, Gretchen has completed four marathons, one triathlon and is now training for the Boston Marathon. She is an 11-year member of the Cedar Valley Running Association and serves on its board. She is race director of the 2008 Swamp Fox 5K in Marion and will begin her fourth year as volunteer coordinator and committee member of the Return of the Turkey Trot 8K and 4K Family Fun Run/Walk in Marion.
Gretchen is a Central Committee Member of the Linn County Democrats.