Lisa graduated magna cum laude from Stonehill College in North Easton, MA with a BA in Elementary Education and a concentration in Reading Instruction. In addition to teaching second grade in the Walpole, MA school system, Lisa chaired an after-school intramural program for over 700 students and served on the Superintendent’s Literacy Committee, at the personal request of the Superintendent. Lisa’s distinctive approach to combining phonics with language-oriented activities led her to co-author a teacher’s guide to Whole Language instruction and present at regional professional development workshops on the benefits of her integrative classroom reading strategies. Lisa also has experience in teaching kindergarten through fifth grade with the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School System. Prior to founding Ballantyne Reading Academy for the Very Young, Lisa served as Director of Early Childhood Education for a private performing arts school.
Sarah is a native New Yorker and worked as a Head Teacher at an Independent school for 8 years. She received her BA in Sociology and Education and her MA in Childhood Education from Adelphi University. Sarah also got her formal training in Orton Gillingham from Bank Street College of Education. Sarah has experience teaching in all types of schools and classroom settings. Sarah develops a strong connection with all her students and works with them to gain confidence in their abilities while having fun. Sarah values her relationships with the student’s families and will be their support and sounding board during the tutoring and evaluation process. Aside from her background in education Sarah successfully founded and directed a day camp for 5 years in New York that just celebrated its 10 year anniversary. Sarah is looking forward to joining the team at Ballantyne Reading Academy!
A graduate of Wingate University, Sydney earned the honor of Beginning Teacher of the Year Award for Union County for the 2017-18 school year. Currently a fourth grade teacher at Rocky River Elementary School, Sydney is experienced with bilingual and ESL students. “I believe every student has the opportunity to be the best they can be in the classroom no matter their learning history! I hope to unleash the confident, wondrous student that they are!”
Rebecca LaxtonEducational Specialist
Rebecca Laxton earned a Bachelor of Arts in both Psychology and English, and has a Specialist Degree in School Psychology. As a school psychologist, she collaborated with teachers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, behavioral specialists, and counselors to develop intervention plans that addressed students’ academic weaknesses. She also evaluated students to determine the underlying causes of their learning difficulties. In 1999, she was the Kentucky School Psychologist of the Year. She is a Wilson Certified Dyslexia Practitioner, and has found success using the structured multi-sensory Wilson Reading System, an Orton-Gillingham based program. She has experience teaching emergent readers, older readers, and students with learning disabilities, and loves guiding students along their reading journey. Her goal as an educational therapist is to foster a positive “can-do” spirit in her students who often find they are capable of more than they thought possible. She recently earned a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies with a concentration in literacy, creative writing, and children’s literature. She is a published author, and is currently working on a middle grade novel.
Akilah Jones graduated from South Carolina State University in 2013 with a Bachelors in Elementary Education. Teaching for six years, she has taught fifth and first grades, and currently teaches fourth grade math and science at Ballantyne Elementary School. Akilah believes that “Children are little people in a big world and I love making a difference in their lives.” After wanting to learn more about helping children with special needs, she obtained her masters in Special Education and Intervention from Winthrop University in 2018. While studying Special Education she fell in love with multisensory learning. Multisensory learning is using your senses: Kinesthetic – moving, Tactile – touching, Visual – seeing, and Auditory- hearing, to learning and explore the world around them. Multisensory learning helps children’s cognitive development, motor skills, and brings out positive behavior. “My job as an educator is to provide children with a memorable experience for life. They make me a better person every day because I am given the chance to view the world in a different light. By stimulating their senses it creates a way for children to become one with what they are learning.” Akilah created an online store in which she designs multisensory toys to help children use their senses to learn, and to give parents the tools they need to support their child. She feels that learning should be personalized to meet the needs of the child. “I am excited to be a part of the Ballantyne Reading Academy team working one on one with children and bringing a multisensory touch to learning!”
Ashley is thrilled to be combining her love of reading and children by joining Ballantyne Reading Academy! As a native Charlottean, Ashley earned her BA in Elementary Education (K-6) with concentrations in Anthropology and Sociology from UNCC. She taught preschool for over five years at Calvary Child Development Center and also spent years as a second grade teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg before becoming the Communications Director for a local company. She brings a sensitivity and awareness of children with various learning styles and abilities especially because she has lived it personally within her own family. She has a lot of experience with ADHD and ESL students – her own husband graduated from the ESL program in CMS. Ashley believes that all children benefit when the best encouragement and resources are given in a one-on-one or small group setting. It is her passion to tap into a child’s gifts through building relationships while teaching and enhancing confidence. Her mission is that ALL children will find success! Ashley and her husband have two daughters in college and a son in high school. She loves reading, cooking and traveling with her family in her free time.
Tara is a Charlotte native receiving both her undergraduate and Masters degrees at UNC Charlotte. Having taught in a variety of school settings including regular education, special needs and with second language learners she comes with a great deal of experience. She strongly believes the key to reading success is small individualized instruction and keeping children engaged. Tapping into children’s interest and providing opportunities for success at a young age is crucial for maintaining a love of reading and learning! She enjoys working one on one and in small groups of students. Her favorite past time is reading and hopes to instill that in all the students she has the pleasure of teaching!
Hailee earned her Bachelor or Arts in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After graduating, she taught for seven years with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System where she taught 1st and 3rd grade. While teaching with CMS, she served as both a team leader and mentor for new teachers, and participated in professional development centered around the balanced literacy model framework. Hailee believes in creating a positive learning environment in which children can learn and grow. She strives to provide quality instruction that is both engaging and meaningful for her students. She is very excited to join Ballantyne Reading Academy!
Shawnta (Nikki) graduated magna cum laude from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte with a degree in Elementary Education (K-6). In May of 2018, she earned a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Gardner-Webb University. Shawnta has been employed by Union County Public Schools for the past 10 years. She currently works at Rocky River Elementary. Shawnta has experience with ESL, special education, and AIG students. While teaching, she has served has a mentor, grade level chair, cooperating teacher for student teachers, and PBIS coordinator. Shawnta has a passion for working with children and believes that ALL children can learn regardless of socioeconomic status and/or learning ability.
Having recently become an empty nester, Esther is doing more of what she loves – teaching children! She graduated with a BS in Elementary Education from Louisiana State University and later earned her Masters of Early Childhood Education from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. Esther has taught in Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina in both public and private school settings. During her 12+ years of classroom experience, Esther served as Grade Level Chair and as a supervisor of a student teacher. While her children were in school, Esther substituted at Charlotte Christian School on a regular basis and is an experienced tutor. She currently teaches Sunday School to children 4 – 7 years old. Esther enjoys her weekly volunteer work with two non-profit organizations and is currently a certified Augustine Literacy Tutor for the Augustine Literacy Project. In her spare time she enjoys reading, gardening, knitting and sewing. Esther is looking forward to working with the children at Ballantyne Reading Academy!
Born and raised in New York, Julianna fell in love with North Carolina when she moved to Winston-Salem for her undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University. Now a “Double Deac”, Julianna graduated from Wake Forest with her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Religious Studies, and Masters in Education. In the classroom, Julianna has enjoyed tutoring 1:1 and in small groups with early learners of all abilities, specifically those on the autism spectrum. Julianna believes in a holistic approach to education and is devoted to fostering a love of learning in children of all ages and abilities. This past year, Julianna has worked for Smart Start of Forsyth County, coaching pre-k teachers in the development of universal classroom practices. Now relocating to Charlotte, Julianna’s passion for working directly with children has drawn her back into the classroom- and to Ballantyne Reading Academy!
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Degreed, experienced teachers and tutors with a passion for literacy and learning are always welcome to join our team!