We are a Christian, non-denominational, hybrid tutorial program for students in grades 1-12. We offer a new approach to parents who want more control over their child’s educational experience and who also want more time together as a family. Imagine a balance between homeschooling (but where we do the heavy lifting) and a progressive affordable private school with a flexible schedule. More like college, students attend classes two days a week and work independently or with assistance to complete their assignments. Our Instructors are certified teachers with advanced degrees who have a passion for the subjects they teach.
Students in grades 1-12 will attend classes on two days of the week. On those days, they will receive instruction in four required core academic areas–English, History, Math, and Science. In addition, the tuition covers one elective course, for a total of five (5) courses.
Lynn Peck returns to Ironwood Academy as a Math Instructor for 2021-2022. She brings her outstanding teaching skills to our 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade 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.
Since 2015, Lynn has been teaching 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 12-year old son, Brody, and a 10-year old daughter, Avery.
Dr. David A. Tretler returns to Ironwood Academy to teach a unique high school history course. The class, U.S. and Global Affairs: A Critical View, will challenge students to be knowledgeable on current events, to critically examine all sides of an argument, and to conduct rigorous and respectful debate with peers on a wide range of relevant national and global issues. In addition, Ironwood Academy’s parents of high school students will be invited to attend an engaging question and answer session with Dr. Tretler immediately following the 90-minute class period each week on Tuesdays to provide context for meaningful discussions at home.
Dr. Tretler is the retired Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs at the National War College in Washington, DC, culminating 50 years of Federal Government service capped by 26 years teaching graduate-level courses on all aspects of national security strategy to senior professional military officers and government officials. Dr. Tretler earned both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in military history from Rice University. He taught military history for eight years at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he served as Director of Military History, responsible for curriculum development, course design, and teaching performance. Dr. Tretler retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1998 after thirty years of active service. He flew 250 combat missions in the F-4D Phantom during the Vietnam War, was an instructor pilot in the T-38 jet trainer, served in the plans directorates at both the USAF Air Training Command and USAF headquarters, and was Deputy Chief of Air Force History before joining the faculty at National War College in 1992. During his time at the National War College, Dr. Tretler worked regularly with officials throughout the U.S. national security establishment. He participated in week-long strategic studies seminars with government officials in Singapore, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Poland, and Hungary, and also served as a consultant on strategic planning to the governments of Poland and Croatia. Dr. Tretler was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 17 oak leaf clusters for his service during the Vietnam War. Subsequently, he earned both the Defense Superior Service Award and the CJCS Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award – the highest civilian service award presented by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – for his work at the National War College. Dr. Tretler is married to the former Joy Doty of Sarasota, FL, and they have two grown children, Brian and Jessica.
Catherine Gunter joins Ironwood Academy to teach Biology, Science 7, and Principles of Engineering. She has 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, she 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.
Deborah Hayes returns to Ironwood Academy as EQ (Emotional Intelligence) Instructor for 2021-2022. 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. 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.
(Linda is shown seated on the far right in the photograph.)
Linda Black joins Ironwood Academy to teach Social Studies 8 and Language Arts 6. Linda has a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Illinois State University and a Master’s degree in Education from Western Kentucky University. She has more than 30 years of teaching experience in middle school language arts, social studies, and math. Most recently, Linda taught sixth grade English Language Arts at Spring Hill Middle School and at Whitthorne Middle School in the Maury County School System for 9 years. For two years, she was a test administrator for City Colleges of Chicago Europe in Ramstein, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Kleber, and several other locations in Germany. Linda is a certified teacher in the State of Tennessee. In her free time, Linda is active in her church, various Bible study groups, and a ministry for widows called Coffee and Conversations. She loves spending time fishing, hunting, and kayaking at her family farm in Bon Aqua, TN with her children and eleven grandchildren.
Melanie Lemon joins Ironwood Academy to teach Language Arts in the elementary program for the 2021-2022 academic year. 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 returns to Ironwood Academy for 2021-2022 as our Art Instructor. 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!
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).
Elizabeth Elfers joins Ironwood Academy to teach English I, American Literature, and British Literature 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.
Wendy Conner returns to Ironwood Academy to teach math and science in our early elementary program for the 2021-2022 academic year. 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.
Ironwood has collaborated with national Christian child development expert, Dr. Joshua Straub, to curate a first-of-its-kind emotional intelligence (EQ) curriculum that will be taught to all students in grades 1-12. 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 will include 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.
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.
We love stories that come full circle. Ironwood Academy alum Drew Turner was adopted as an infant from Russia. After attending Ironwood Academy through high school, Drew graduated from Lee University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication, majoring in digital media and studio production. Upon graduating, Drew has been working as Digital Media Coordinator for HopeHouse International, a ministry that serves orphans by finding loving homes in their own countries in Eastern Europe. Please check out www.hopehouseinternational.org and considering supporting this worthwhile ministry of faith, hope and love. We are so proud of Drew, not only for his accomplishments and hard work, but also for his amazing and generous heart!
Emily Watson graduated early from high school, having taken full advantage of Ironwood Academy’s hybrid program featuring strong academics, exceptional teachers, and a flexible schedule. She received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing and also a Masters of Business Administration from Lipscomb University. To only be 21 years of age, Emily has worked hard and accomplished so much. We are so proud of her!
Grace Butler attended Ironwood for 5 years and graduated in 2016. The flexible schedule during the school year also allowed her to be very competitive in the equestrian sport and even compete in England and France while still gaining a quality education. Because of the customized course plan Ironwood provides, Grace was able to graduate high school a year early and use her time until attending college the next year to gain some college credits and valuable experience in her field of interest. Now, Grace is a senior at Auburn University studying Animal Science and she was recently accepted to Auburn’s School of Veterinary Medicine. In addition to attending classes, she is also the president of the Auburn Eventing Team, which has won the national championship in the sport of eventing for the past 2 years. Grace is also a leader in her greek sorority on campus, volunteers at a wildlife rehabilitation center, and stays on top of a busy class schedule.
Olivia Owen attended Ironwood Academy for 5 years. Because of Ironwood’s flexible schedule she was able to compete internationally, riding horses in over 8 countries, while still excelling in her studies. After graduating a year early in 2017, she took a gap year during which she lived in Europe and rode for the U.S. team. These experiences in partnership with Ironwood’s challenging college-preparatory curriculum prepared her for both college and the professional world. Olivia is now a senior honors student at the University of Kentucky, where she is double majoring in Business Management and Finance with a minor in International Business. She was chosen for a global scholar pathway that enables her to continue her international interests by taking specialized international business classes and studying abroad. In addition to her classes, Olivia is very involved in her sorority, where she serves as President.
Brian Ericson attended Ironwood Academy for four years and graduated in 2015. Ironwood’s excellent instructors and academic programs developed his love for writing and the arts, so he continued his education at Lee University and majored in English writing. While in college, Brian was an editor for the school paper, a tutor in the writing center, a campus tour guide, and a freshman orientation leader. He was also heavily involved in the theatre program and served as the vice president of Lee’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society. Brian graduated summa cum laude in 2019 and now lives back in Nashville, where he works full-time as a political contributor to Young Voices, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.
Congratulations to Ironwood Academy alumnus, Mitch Parker, who was accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. During his time at Ironwood, Mitch was Student Council President and received our Outstanding Leadership Award.
Trevor Gersmehl graduated early from Samford University with a degree in sports management. He is engaged to be married in June to another Ironwood Academy alumna, Danielle Starmer. Danielle also graduated from Samford with a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and is a registered dietitian.
Madeline Watts attended Ironwood Academy for four years and graduated in 2016. She is now a senior at Tennessee Tech University studying graphic design and she runs cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field for the university. Maddie runs long distance events such as the mile, 3k, and 5k. She also competed at the American Championships in West Virginia where she placed 1st in age group and 6th overall in the US for women in the 10k trail event.
Gracie Jacob (Varga) attended Ironwood Academy for 3 years. Ironwood’s flexible schedule allowed her to pursue her music and songwriting while she frequently traveled throughout the United States to perform with her band. After graduating from high school early, Gracie obtained the experience and education needed to start her own business and married her husband Joey Jacob at the end of 2016. In 2020, Gracie launched her own online clothing boutique called Graeish (www.graeish.com) and continues to be involved in the songwriting industry through Bridge Worship. Gracie believes the hybrid model of Ironwood Academy and the relationships she had with students and faculty, helped shape her into the entrepreneur she is today. Her hope is to use her business endeavors to encourage women to find Christ-centered confidence in every season of life.
Caleb Varga attended Ironwood Academy for 3 years. Like his sister Gracie Jacob, Caleb also enjoyed the flexibility of Ironwood Academy because he has traveled as a drummer for various musical acts since the age of 14. Caleb started attending Ironwood Academy in 7th grade and finished high school early as a dual enrolled student in Columbia State Community College. Currently, Caleb is finishing his junior year at Liberty University online and expects to graduate in March of 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Worship Studies. Additionally, he is about to be fully licensed as a Tennessee Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams in Spring Hill. Some of Caleb’s fondest memories of Ironwood Academy are going down the road to lunch with his classmates, playing football outside during lunch, math class with Lynn Peck, and performing in the annual Ironwood Academy Talent Show. Ironwood Academy created a solid foundation for Caleb to build upon, and gave him the confidence to continue pursuing his musical gift and passion for music.