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.
Dr. Joshua Straub
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
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.
Social Studies Instructor
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Instructor
Science & Math Instructor
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.
Allison Jarrett Timmons
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.
Sarah jackson zanotti
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.
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.
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.