Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Curriculum

Supplementing our strong academic course foundation in English, Math, Science, and History, we have embedded a uniquely curated emotional intelligence component into all aspects of Ironwood Academy.  In addition to the core academic subjects, all students receive weekly small group instruction and coaching in EQ designed to build self-esteem, improve communication skills, and increase empathy for others.  Our goal is to create and sustain spaces and places in which students can learn and thrive.  

What are parents saying about Ironwood's EQ program?

"Ironwood's EQ program is groundbreaking!  There's nothing like it offered in any other public or private school in the State of Tennessee." 

Ironwood collaborated with national Christian child development expert, Dr. Joshua Straub, to curate a first-of-its-kind emotional intelligence (EQ) curriculum that is taught to all students in grades K-9.  Ironwood Academy’s objective is to provide an emotionally-safe environment in which students (and parents) will be given specific tools to identify and regulate emotions and, just as importantly, to recognize and respect others’ feelings.  The curriculum includes training on neurobiological concepts regarding brain structure, development and function; healthy problem solving and coping skills; cognitive flexibility and language processing; as well as teaching and practicing listening and social skills.  Ironwood's EQ course was the pilot program for a national emotional intelligence program for all schools.  It is research-based wherein we conduct pre- and post-assessments for positive outcomes supported by data.  

Learn More about the EQ Curriculum Concepts


Dr. Josh Straub commented, “The EQ curriculum is at the intersection of psychology and spirituality, providing essential life skills that are rarely taught in schools.  When Google found a few years ago that ‘soft skills’—that is, empathy, emotional safety, and emotional intelligence—were the top characteristics of their most productive teams, it began to change the way we view how we prepare today’s students. Ironwood is at the forefront of this movement.”

Dr. Joshua Straub is a speaker, author, and family and leadership coach. He 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.

Dr. Joshua Straub and his wife, Christi, lead Famous at Home® a company equipping leaders, corporations, and families in emotional intelligence and healthy family systems. myKidsEQ™ and KidsEQAcademy™ by Famous at Home® comprise a first-of-its-kind emotional intelligence curriculum focused on whole child development, relationship skills, empathy, and emotional safety. Research based and founded on neurobiology, as well as evidence-based best practices and Biblical principles, KidsEQAcademy™ gives kids the life skills they need to thrive.  

 Josh is the author/coauthor of eight books, including Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well, and Famous at Home: 7 Decisions to Putting Your Family Center Stage in a World Fighting for Your Time, Attention and Identity (2022). He and Christi host the Famous at Home podcast and co-wrote two children’s books, What Am I Feeling? and What Do I Do With Worry? to help parents foster emotional awareness in kids.

Debb Hayes serves Ironwood Academy as the EQ (Emotional Intelligence) Instructor for Grades K-8. Deborah has 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 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 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.