Meet The Staff
Lisa PalladinoOwner/Founder/Educator
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.
Laura SwaringenEducator
Laura is a new teacher in the Charlotte area, but is very experienced with Ballantyne Reading Academy summer camps. She’s been helping with the summer reading camps for the past four years while finishing college in Boone. Laura graduated summa cum laude from Appalachian State University with her BS in Elementary Education and a minor in Psychology. Inspired by the reading camps at Ballantyne Reading Academy, she decided to return to Appalachian State to receive her MA in Reading Education. Besides student teaching and multiple internships in diverse classroom settings, Laura has worked at the Anderson Reading Clinic in Boone as a reading and writing private tutor. “My graduate program has taught me the power a great book can have on students. I hope to use diverse books to inspire students to grow into confident and successful learners!”
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 JonesEducator
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 MangioneEducator
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 BoyceEducator
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 EckelbeckerEducator
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 MorrisonEducator
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.
Esther GoldsteinEducator
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!
Amy HennenEducator
Amy is excited to be joining Ballantyne Reading Academy and sharing her love of literacy! She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee earning a BS degree in Elementary Education. She began her career as a fifth grade teacher and then moved to North Carolina over 20 years ago. While her children were young, she was a substitute teacher for UCPS and Ivybrook Academy (then Learning Links). Amy received her North Carolina certification and spent 5 years as a Reading Interventionist for UCPS. She decided to return to Ivybrook Academy and teaches right next door as a Pre-K teacher. Amy has experience using the Leveled Literacy Intervention program, developing oral and written comprehension skills, strengthening phonics skills, and evaluating how best to build reading stamina. She enjoys learning about her students and assessing their needs. Amy’s goal is to provide a positive reading experience so that your child can feel their confidence and self esteem improve!

Do you have experience?


Degreed, experienced teachers and tutors with a passion for literacy and learning are always welcome to join our team!

Send your resume to

Teaching reading IS rocket science.

– Louisa Moats