Ironwood Academy has a reputation for hiring the best teachers in the area. Our Instructors are highly experienced and engaged professionals with advanced degrees. They are passionate about the subjects or grade that they teach. At Ironwood, we believe strongly that teachers should be extremely well paid and empowered because a truly great teacher can make all the difference in how a young person sees his or her future. We provide an environment that allows teachers to use all of their creative skills and giftedness and we reward them for going beyond the norm to reach and challenge our students. As a result, the students at Ironwood Academy are the beneficiaries; they are being taught by the best of the best. 

Terry L. Morris

Executive Director 

Terry Morris serves as Executive Director of Ironwood Academy. She has over 35 years experience in entrepreneurial non-profit leadership, as well as corporate strategy and development experience with global, publicly-traded companies. In 2011, Terry and a small group of parents and teachers founded Ironwood Academy as a rigorous college-prep tutorial for middle and high school homeschool students in the Nashville area. She currently serves as President of the Board of Directors and co-administers the program. Terry holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas. She is a Tennessee-certified teacher and she homeschooled her own son, Stephen, who graduated from the University of Tennessee and now lives and works in Knoxville. 

Lynn Peck

Administrator & Math Instructor

Lynn Peck is the Administrator of Ironwood Academy, responsible for all academic affairs, and she serves as Math Chair. She brings her outstanding teaching skills to our middle and high school students.  Lynn graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors) from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics. She also has a Masters of Education degree in Secondary Education from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, where she graduated with a GPA of 3.9 out of 4.0.   Lynn’s love for middle school students stems from her time at the Harpeth Hall School where she taught for six years covering Standard and Honors Pre-Algebra, Math 7, Honors Algebra 1, and Honors Geometry.

Previously, Lynn taught Algebra I and Statistics at Ravenwood High School.   Ravenwood is not only where Lynn first started her teaching career before transferring to Harpeth Hall, but it is also where she met her husband, Josh Peck.  Josh currently teaches Robotics and Engineering at Ravenwood.  Lynn and Josh have two children: a 13-year old son, Brody, and an 11-year old daughter, Avery.

Dr. Joshua Straub

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) 

Curriculum Director 

Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is a husband, dad, and teacher. By trade, Josh is a speaker, author, and family and leadership coach. A champion of human empathy, Josh leads Famous at Home, a company equipping leaders, organizations, military families, and churches in emotional intelligence and family wellness. Josh also is a Fellow of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling. As a marriage and family coach and consultant, and professor of child psychology / crisis response, Josh coaches leaders to be famous at home so they can thrive on their stage. He also speaks regularly for Joint Special Operations Command and serves military families across the country.

Josh is author/ coauthor of six books including Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well and coauthor, along with his wife Christi, of their first children’s book, What Am I Feeling? and family Bible study, Homegrown: Cultivating Kids in the Fruit of the Spirit. He and Christi also host the In This Together podcast, and in partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources, are the creators of TwentyTwoSix Parenting, a community of parents growing together to encourage the spiritual growth of their kids.

Most of all, Josh loves spending time with his family on the lake, training their disobedient puppy, and watching their kids crush karaoke on a stage built in their dining room.

ELizabeth elfers

English Instructor

Elizabeth Elfers joined Ironwood Academy in 2021 to teach English to our high school students.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Xavier University in English and Theology, where she graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors).  She also has a Master of Theological Studies degree, summa cum laude, from Vanderbilt University Divinity School where she was a Founders Medalist.  In addition, in 2011, she was a Fellow in the Vanderbilt University Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership.

Elizabeth has extensive experience in teaching, administrative leadership, and youth mentoring.  Most recently, from 2015-2020, she was Dean of Campus Ministry and Student Life at Father Ryan High School in Nashville.  In her leadership role, Elizabeth provided direction and oversight of student service opportunities such as Room in the Inn, Special Olympics, and Relay for Life, as well as overseeing student mission trips.  Prior to her tenure at Father Ryan, Elizabeth facilitated youth and adult volunteer opportunities as Co-Director of Lydia’s House in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She previously served as Associate University Minister at the University of San Diego for four years facilitating domestic and international immersion experiences for college students.  Elizabeth taught Great Books, Theology, and Social Justice at Pope John Paul II High School and was a Writing Consultant at Vanderbilt University’s English Language Center tutoring international students. Her extensive classroom experience in all grade levels, combined with her passion for reading, writing, and providing leadership development for youth and young adults, makes Elizabeth a tremendous addition to Ironwood Academy’s dream team faculty.  She and her husband, Jim, who is a Spanish teacher at Pope John Paul II High School, have been married four years and are the proud parents of a two-year-old daughter, Margie, and a four-month-old son, Oscar.  In her free time, Elizabeth volunteers for the homeless through Room in the Inn and other charitable organizations.  She is a Franklin, Tennessee native and her entire family is local.  Elizabeth plays guitar, enjoys live music, and she loves reading, especially works by Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, and J.K. Rowling.

Catherine gunter

Science Instructor

Catherine Gunter joined Ironwood Academy in 2021 with over 20 years of experience teaching science to middle and high school students.  Catherine holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry, as well as a Masters of Education degree in Secondary Science Education, from the University of Georgia.  

Most recently, Catherine taught Chemistry and AP Chemistry at Franklin Road Academy as a long-term substitute teacher, in addition to privately tutoring area middle and high school students in math, science, Spanish II, and study skills.  Catherine’s middle school teaching experience includes sixth grade science at J.T. Moore Middle School and fifth and sixth grade science at The Covenant School. At the high school level, she taught regular, advanced, and honors Chemistry at Ravenwood High School.  Catherine began her teaching career at Providence High School in Charlotte, NC, where she taught regular, advanced, and honors Chemistry.  There she received the First Year Teacher of the Year award.  Catherine is proficient in intermediate Spanish and is a Tennessee state-certified teacher with a “highly qualified” endorsement in Chemistry for grades 7-12.  Catherine and her husband, Oliver, have lived in the Nashville area for 13 years where he is an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Vanderbilt University.  They have two sons, David (15) and Marshall (13), who keep the family busy going to travel soccer games throughout the southeast.  When not on the pitch, her family enjoys time on the lake with friends, entertaining, and traveling. 

Debb hayes

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Instructor

Deborah Hayes returns to Ironwood Academy as EQ (Emotional Intelligence) Instructor with 30+ years of professional educational experience as a classroom teacher (public and private). She is a published author, curriculum developer, teacher trainer, and national speaker at educational conferences. She also homeschooled her three sons for several years. She has a strong passion for helping equip young people in the area of emotional intelligence.

She completed both her undergraduate degree and graduate teacher credentialing work at California State University, Sacramento, majoring in Liberal Arts/Education with a concentration in Communications Studies. She taught public school for several years in central California and the inner-city of Los Angeles. Debb was named “Best New Educator” her second year in the classroom. In addition to her tenure as a classroom teacher, she has significant experience in writing and developing curriculum and training materials for educational institutions and publishers. She has authored multiple best-selling teacher resource books and over one hundred curriculum guides and materials for publishers such as Scholastic, The Learning Company, LeapFrog, Houghton-Mifflin, Pearson Education, and Dorling Kindersley in London. One of her earlier books was adopted as a textbook for the teaching program at New York State University. Debb has also worked with the states of Texas and Michigan as a consultant for the correlation of K-12 curriculum to state assessment standards and benchmarks for Language Arts. She continues to write and create content for online educational resources. For many years, Debb’s national speaking engagements include educational conferences such as the International Reading Association, the National Educational Computing Conference, and the American Library Association. She also conducted multiple national teacher training workshops and seminars on a variety of topics for school districts around the country. During her previous tenure at Ironwood, she taught Composition, Literature, and Public Speaking/Communication Skills.

Most recently, Debb’s deep passion and dedication to the power of encouragement and building emotional intelligence has led to her passion project – a social-enterprise organization called I Can Do Stuff. Connecting with brain researchers, psychologists, and thought leaders in the EQ space, her dream is to provide tangible tools, support, community connections, and fun “stuff” to help people of all ages and stages engage the power of encouragement as they activate their callings and big dreams.

Deborah is equally passionate about learning and using life tools that promote positive mental, emotional and physical health. She is a board member of the Advisory Council at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. She is also a state-wide presenter of the End the Silence program. End the Silence is a program designed for middle and high school students (as well as school staff and families) to help educate, empower and increase knowledge in discussing mental health.

Debb and her husband, Steve, have lived in the Franklin area for over two decades. They will celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary this year. They have three grown sons (Conner, Tate, and Jack) and a good ole black lab named Ozzy. She loves reading, writing, travel, kayaking, and paddleboarding. And cookies.

Dr. Keri Tarantino 

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Instructor

Kerith (Keri) Tarantino, Psy.D. was trained as a clinical psychologist at Rosemead School of Psychology in La Mirada, California.  She approaches clinical work and teaching with an understanding of human behavior and emotion through the lens of theology and faith.  She has a passion for helping others grow to be uniquely the way God created them.  Keri was a recipient of the Health Professional Scholarship Program through the United States Army during her graduate training and went on to be commissioned as an officer in the US Army to begin her career as a psychologist.  She completed her internship training at Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia and her residency training at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington.  

She deployed to Iraq in 2008-2009 with a Combat Stress Control Detachment from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, where she served as a clinical psychologist.  She earned a bronze star medal for her efforts to promote psychological care to those impacted by combat exposure and traumatic brain injury.  Upon completion of four years of active-duty service in the military, Dr. Tarantino served as the post-doctoral residency program director at Madigan Army Medical Center, where she developed a passion for teaching.  

Keri has provided psychological assessment services to children and adults across the lifespan following her time with the military.  After relocating to the Nashville, Tennessee area in 2018, she has been on staff with the Learning Lab and Highlands Professional Group, where she provides assessment services to children and adults.  She also serves as the clinical supervisor at the Learning Lab.  Keri remains connected with the military where she offers consultation and assessment services. 

Keri is married to her husband, Gus, of 19 years and they have two children, Olivia (11) and Anthony (8).  She has a passion for working with children in her church, where she currently assists with developing a ministry for families with special needs.  She enjoys being on their family farm in Burns, Tennessee, hiking, kayaking, gardening and running with their spoiled dog, Nash.  

cassie gillett

Math Instructor

Cassie Gillett has joined Ironwood Academy’s stellar faculty in 2022 to teach upper elementary and middle school math.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from DePauw University, where she graduated with highest honors (summa cum laude).  In addition, she has a Masters in Gifted, Talented and Education from Arkansas State University, also graduating summa cum laude.  Mrs. Gillett has over 16 years of experience as an educator in a variety of settings.  Most recently, she led the Liberty Learning Tutorial, which provided instruction in all subject levels.  Previously, she was a Master Teacher at the Tennessee Connections Academy for two years, and for six years, she was a Specialist Teacher at the International Connections Academy.  In her career, Mrs. Gillett has developed and reviewed curriculum and designed teacher resources.  Cassie and her husband, Jon, have been married for 3 years and together they have seven children: Sam (18), Giselle (16), Ezra (13), Zechariah (13), Jonah (10), Isaiah (9), and Clarabeth (7).  They also have 3 dogs and 3 cats! In her free time, she enjoys dancing as she teaches dance and is part of an adult dance company.  She is often found teaching group fitness classes, hanging out with friends, hiking, or doing anything active!  

Linda Oursler

Social Studies Instructor

Linda Oursler teaches Social Studies at Ironwood Academy.  She has a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from Houston Baptist University.  In addition, Linda has a Master of Arts degree in biblical studies from the International School of Theology in San Bernardino, California.

Linda has over 30 years of classroom teaching experience in public and private schools as well as homeschooling her own children. Prior to joining Ironwood Academy, she taught at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville for six years.

Linda received professional certification from the Association of Classical Christian Education and she is a Certified NeuroEducational Evaluator.  She evaluates and works with children from a neurodevelopment perspective and designs individualized therapy programs tailored to their needs to help them develop.  Linda is a dyslexia specialist.  In addition to her neurodevelopment work, Linda also tutors elementary children in the Wilson Reading and Orton Gillingham Learning and Language Development methods.  She has lectured locally and overseas on how the brain functions and how children develop educationally.

Linda and her husband, Dr. Henry Oursler, have been married for 38 years and they have three grown children (Brandon, Becca, and Brooks) and four grandchildren (Caleb, Claire, Maverick, and Deacon).

Melanie Lemon

Language Arts Instructor

Melanie Lemon joined Ironwood Academy in 2021 to teach Language Arts in the elementary program.  Melanie has over 20 years teaching experience and is a Tennessee state-certified teacher.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, as well as a Master of Education degree, with an emphasis in administration and supervision, from Middle Tennessee State University.  For the past four years, Melanie has worked as a regular and beloved substitute teacher at Grace Christian Academy in Lieper’s Fork, TN.  Melanie’s colleagues have raved about her expertise as a teacher and her excellent rapport with students.  Previously, Melanie taught second and fourth grades at Walnut Grove Elementary for seven years.  From 1999 to 2005, she taught at Erma Siegel Elementary School in Murfreesboro.  Melanie began her teaching career in Georgia, having taught third and sixth grades there before moving to Tennessee. She has been a member of Franklin First United Methodist Church for 15 years, as well as a community volunteer and leader for a local non-profit group.  Melanie and her family enjoy being outside.  They like to spend time with family and friends as often as they can get together.  When she’s not teaching, Melanie enjoys volunteering, walking, hiking, and cooking.  

Wendy conner

Science & Math Instructor

Wendy Conner returns to Ironwood Academy to teach math and science in our early elementary program.  Wendy has been teaching for 16 years. Most recently, she taught third grade math and science at Pegram Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School where she was voted Teacher of the Year for 2019-20.  

Wendy was instrumental in building Ironwood’s elementary and middle school science programs.  Previously, she taught fourth grade at Nashville Christian School and she taught middle school science for four years.  She began her teaching career as a fifth grade teacher at Meigs Magnet School in Nashville. Wendy holds a Bachelor of Science degree and teaching certificate from Trevecca Nazarene University.  Wendy and her husband, Glenn, have been married for 27 years and they have two children:  Abby, an Ironwood Academy alumna and graduate of Lee University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design; and Aiden, who is 12 years old. Wendy is a member of Faith Church in Nashville and enjoys working with their ministries to women and children in crisis. In her free time, Wendy enjoys gardening and cooking. She also loves traveling and hiking with her family. 

Allison Jarrett Timmons

Art Instructor

Allison Jarrett Timmons returned to Ironwood Academy in 2021 as our Art Instructor for all grades. Allison holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies with a Concentration in Studio Art from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Art Education from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. Allison has taught all ages in a variety of settings, from traditional schools to homeschool tutorials to college to community education. She served as an Adjunct Instructor and Teaching Artist at Watkins College of Art, Design and Film and Watkins Community Education, as a 3-D art teacher at Father Ryan High School, a ceramics instructor at high schools and camps in New York, and as a private art instructor with her own studio, Art School. No matter who she is teaching, Allison’s primary goal is to teach the creative process, and to encourage students to take risks with their work and try new things. She enjoys teaching through contemporary art using traditional and non-traditional media and materials, and wants all of her art students to believe in their own innate creativity.

Allison was raised in Nashville and attended Father Ryan High School. When she is not teaching, she volunteers her time with the American Legion Auxiliary Volunteer Girls State Program, a citizenship and leadership program for high school girls. Her own artwork and creative projects include lettering, embroidery, writing, sculpture, and quilting with her mother Anita. Allison and her husband Matthew have a 6-month old daughter, June, and they spend their free time together playing music, renovating their Donelson home, and chasing after their silly dog Gracie. Allison is thrilled to be able to return to the Ironwood community!


Science Instructor

Kelly Barrett joined Ironwood Academy once again for the 2023-2024 school year to teach Human Anatomy to our high school upper classmen.  Kelly was one of the co-founders of Ironwood Academy in 2011, along with a small groups of teachers and parents along side Terry Morris.  She has a broad scence background, having previously taught physical science, biology, marine biology, chemistry, and physics to comeschool students in 8th through 12th grades.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Bowling Green State Universty in Ohio, graduating with honors.  She also has a Master in Education degree from Alfred University in New York, specializing in secondary education and biology.  Kelly has previously taught at Page Middle in the Williamson County School District and Father Ryan High School in Nashville.  Kelly and her husband, Eric, have three children: Jackson (married to Anna), Bridget, and Ryan.  She enjoys reading, working out, embroidery, and spending time with her family.

Allison Blair

Science Instructor

Allison Blair joined Ironwood Academy’s stellar faculty in 2022 as one of our elementary science teachers. Most recently, Mrs. Blair taught second and fourth grades in Smyrna, TN. She is passionate about implementing lab-based and interactive, hands-on science instruction in the classroom and devising creative methods to ignite a life-long love for learning in her students. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Middle Tennessee State University and is a licensed professional teacher in the State of Tennessee. Mrs. Blair is a member of the National Science Teaching Association and the Council for Elementary Science International. She has served as a volunteer for Tennessee Girls in STEM, leading workshops for girls in grades 5-8 to explore careers and conducting experiments to ignite their passion for science. She led a youth group for four years at LaVergne First United Methodist Church and currently leads the 4th/5th grade worship at River Oaks Community Church. Mrs. Blair and her husband Justin have been married for five years and they have a 20-month-old son, Nolan. Their family enjoys traveling, scuba diving, and playing with their Husky named Marlee.

Dawn Breese

English Instructor

Dawn Breese joined Ironwood Academy in 2022 to teach middle school Language Arts. She holds both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership from California State University at Fullerton, where she graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors). Mrs. Breese has been an educator for over 30 years as a teacher, a principal, and as a district administrator in Anaheim, California.  She has multiple subject teacher credentials as well as cross cultural, language and academic development credentials.  In 2018, she was designated by the California State Legislature as “Woman of the Year” and chosen as a “Woman of Distinction” by the California Assembly District 65.  Mrs. Breese was “Administrator of the Year” in 2019-2020. The schools that she led won the California Gold Ribbon School award for two years.  She is passionate about establishing high standards for children’s academic and social growth and is a proven leader in classroom management.  Mrs. Breese has extensive experience in designing instruction that significantly improves achievement for all learners.  Mrs. Breese has been married to her husband, John, for 27 years and they are raising their rescued fur baby named Enzo (a 60-lb standard-sized Schnauzer).  In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, wide reading, live music, and long drives through the beautiful Tennessee countryside.

Sarah jackson

Theater Arts Instructor

Sarah Jackson Zanotti joined Ironwood Academy in 2022 to teach Theater Arts to all grades. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts/Musical Theater degree from Lipscomb University, where she graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors).  Sarah is very involved in the Nashville theater arena in a variety of community support roles.  Currently, she is the founder (along with her husband) of Acting All Around, a youth theater company in Nolensville, TN.  Sarah is a TPAC Disney Musicals in School Teaching Artist.  For four years, she was a Teaching Artist for Backlight Theater Productions in Franklin, TN, working directly with special needs students coaching voice, character and memorization work.  Previously, she was an ESL Online Teacher for VIPKID assisting children in China in immersive English language instruction.  She is a Teaching Artist for Nashville Shakespeare Festival where she leads workshops for area schools.  In 2016, Sarah was a Teacher for the Florida Repertory Theater Education Department.  She has produced and directed a number of theater and musical theater performances.  Sarah and her husband Josh have been married for five years and they host a children’s podcast together called “The Quest Company.”  In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, and hiking.


Digital Arts Instructor

Marcie Kindred joined Ironwood Academy to teach digital arts during the 2022-2023 school year.  Marcie is an artist and an educator with over 20 years experience in the professional world of corporate and commercial photography and branding.  She is well-versed in studio and on-location work where she has used her talents to partner with Fortune 500 companies and a broad range of businesses.  Her clients include Vanderbilt University, Northrop Grumman, and Tractor Supply Company, as well as local businesses, design firms, hospitals, and nonprofits in the surrounding Nashville area.  

Marcie holds a Master of Fine Arts from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and she began teaching in 2017.  She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in photography and a second BFA in Art with an emphasis in graphic design.  When not behind the camera, Marcie enjoys spending time with her husband and three kids in the great outdoors.


Elementary Instructor

Abbie Hays joined Ironwood Academy as an instructor for the 2023-2024 school year of our second grade class.  Most recently, Abbie taught second grade for five years at a charter rewards school in the Metro Nashville school system.  She is trained in the Orton-Gillingham method for reading instruction.  As a Nashville native, Abbie graduated from Harpeth Hall high school and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Auburn University, with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies.  She has been married for three years to her high school sweetheart, Wilson Hays, and they have a son, Huck.  When she is not teaching, Abbie loves spending time with her husband, their son, and their boxer Nala.  She enjoys walking, reading and creating beautiful flower arrangements.


Math Instructor

Katie Hoepfner joined Ironwood Academy to teach middle and high school math during the 2023-2024 school year.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Middle Level Education, as well as a Master of Science Degree in Teaching and Learning, from Illinois University where she graduated with honors.  Katie has over ten years of experience teaching middle school math.  Most recently, she has been teaching Pre-Algebra, Honors Pre-Algebra, and Algebra 1 at The Ensworth School in Nashville.  Previously, she taught 8th grade math in the Rutherford County School system.  From 2013 to 2019, Katie taught 6th grade math in the Pontiac, Illinois CCSD, where she created two interdisciplinary STEM units and served on the Illinois Math & Science Partnership Program.  She began her teaching career in the Urbana, Illinois school system teaching 7th grade math.  When she is not teaching, Katie enjoys spending time with her husband, Chris, and their dog, Sadie.

julie lankford

Elementary Instructor

Julie Lankford joined Ironwood Academy in 2021 as an elementary teacher.  She has over 20 years of experience in early childhood education in homeschooling and in public school for 20 years.  Julie has a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Baylor University and is a certified Tennessee teacher.  For eight years, Julie taught kindergarten and pre-kindergarten in the Metro Nashville Public Schools having previously served as a substitute teacher.  She has written curriculum for Lifeway Christian Resources and designed a pre-K curriculum guide for teachers.  She is the Preschool Choir Director for Nashville First Baptist Church, a position she has held for over 30 years.  In addition, Julie is a clinician at music workshops and has written music education curriculum for Growing in Grace.  She worked with the Nashville Children’s Choir (Belmont Academy) for twelve years and traveled with the NCC’s touring choir.  Julie has been homeschooling for 17 years and has helped many families get started homeschooling using a tutorial.  She has taught parenting classes on how to integrate math and language into everyday activities and conducted continuing education workshops for early childhood teachers.  The Lankfords were one of the instrumental families at Ironwood Academy when it was founded in 2011.  Her daughter, Caroline, attended Ironwood Academy and is now a senior at Lee University majoring in Nursing, with a minor in Spanish.  When she is not teaching, Julie enjoys walking and hiking, singing, working jigsaw puzzles, riding roller coasters, and traveling with her children.