Our Staff

Undoubtedly, Lionheart’s greatest asset is its staff.  The school’s concentration and caliber of teachers and licensed therapy professionals is unmatched by any other Special Education program in the Southeast.

Shanna Blackburn, B.M.

Shanna graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor’s in Music. She is a teacher’s assistant in one of Lionheart’s middle school classrooms this year. She is very excited about being a part of Lionheart! Shanna lives in Canton with her husband, son, and Australian Shepherd. She enjoys hiking, camping, swimming, running races, and photography. Shanna is from Columbus Ohio and loves the Ohio State Buckeyes. Her background is in music, and is looking forward to incorporating music activities with the students at Lionheart this year.

Katya Glass, M.S., OTR/L

Katya provides occupational therapy at Lionheart, runs our hippotherapy program as well as our Summer Farm Camp. She has a Bachelor’s in Animal Sciences with a focus on Equine Science from Auburn University.  She completed her Master of Health Science in Occupational Therapy (MHSOT) degree from the College of Allied Health Sciences at the Georgia Regents University in Augusta.  Katya has received her level II certification in Hippotherapy & is part of the American Hippotherapy Association. Her lifelong experience with autism gives Katya a deep understanding of what children need & how to help them be successful.

Amanda Godwin, B.S.

Amanda graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelors of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences and a minor in Leadership Studies. She was involved in the EAGLES Program at Auburn and served as an employment coach, academic tutor, and social peer mentor to students with intellectual disabilities. Amanda also student-interned at a Title I Elementary School in Forsyth County through the school counseling department. Amanda is so eager to serve as a teacher’s assistant in one of our elementary classrooms.

Catherine Greenfield, B.S.

Catherine joined Lionheart this year as a teacher assistant in one of our elementary classrooms. She graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Bachelor of Science in Management. Catherine has worked for numerous years as a paraprofessional in the public school system including several years in a special education classroom. She is excited to have recently moved to the Alpharetta area with her family and join the Lionheart team.

Booth Jewett, B.S.

Booth graduated from Trevecca Nazarene University with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Justice. He has worked as a regenerative farmer, teacher, and consultant in the local food movement in Nashville, TN since 2014. As an Atlanta native, he is excited to have recently moved back to his hometown and join the Lionheart team as Gardens Manager. Booth is responsible for running the farm, teaching garden lessons, and acting as a liaison between the community and Lionheart Gardens.

Hannah Jones, B.S.

Hannah was a student-athlete at the University of Georgia and graduated with a degree in Human Development and Family Science. She volunteered for 3 years at Extra Special People in Athens as well as UGA Miracle and other non-profit organizations. Following graduation, Hannah pursued a career as a Child Life Specialist helping children and families cope with hospitalization. She is excited to be a part of the Lionheart team as a teacher in our high school classroom.

Cherise Kelly, B.S., CCC-SLP

Cherise graduated from State University of New York – College at Geneseo with a Bachelor of Science in Communicative Disorders and Sciences and a Masters of Arts in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She holds her Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association. She also maintains a Georgia State Licensure in Speech-Language Pathology. Cherise began her career in NY as a speech therapist teaming with occupational therapists, physical therapists, teachers and parents to provide individual instruction for developmentally disabled children. Since she has been in Georgia, she has worked provided services independently through her private practice, Speech-Language Partners of GA. Cherise is excited to be a part of the Lionheart team.

Linda Lenston, M.Ed.

Linda graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a B.A. in Psychology. She also has an M.Ed. in Rehabilitation Counseling with a concentration in Psychiatric Mental Health from Springfield College. While working in the mental health field, Linda also completed an M.Ed. in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Learning Disabilities and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in School Psychology from American International College. Linda recently moved to the Alpharetta area with her family and is excited to be a part of the Lionheart team as a co-teacher in our middle school classroom.

Carly Lyon, M.F.A.

Carly is joining Lionheart as our art teacher this year. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and continued to Ohio State University where she earned her Masters in Fine Arts. After several experiences teaching Art to all ages, Carly gained her PK-12 certification in Fine Arts at UGA, and is also certified in Early Childhood education. Carly joins The Lionheart School after teaching Elementary Art for 11 years to a community of diverse learners. She loves the opportunity to connect with students through the art-making process, and enjoys collaborating with her students. In addition to teaching at The Lionheart School, Carly also teaches students from her home studio, and is currently exploring her love of music. She sings and plays the piano and the ukulele often at local open mic nights.

Olivia Merritt, M.S., OTR/L

Olivia earned her Masters of Occupational Therapy degree at the West Virginia University School of Medicine; she previously graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Human Performance and Health. Olivia has served the special abilities population through private practice OT in the Alpharetta and Cumming areas since 2017. She is passionate about the countless ways OT can provide change for a child and their families in the classroom and beyond! Olivia especially enjoys parent education, supporting sensory processing needs, fine motor development, and fostering social-emotional skills within the pediatric OT treatment areas. Olivia is excited to be a part of the Lionheart team!

Michelle O’Riordan, B.S.

Michelle graduated Loyola University in Chicago with a degree in special education and is a certified special education teacher. She taught in Chicago for 8 years.  Her experiences in Chicago include therapeutic settings, inclusion settings and a residential setting for adults with developmental delays. Prior to joining the Lionheart Team, Michelle served as the lead teacher for a class at a local preschool. On Sundays, she enjoys mentoring students with special needs during Religious Education classes. Michelle loves to be a part of the Lionheart team and continuing to learn from the school’s dedicated staff.

Abigail Patel, B.S.

Abigail joined Lionheart in 2012 after graduating from Lee University with a degree in Special Education: Mild to Moderate Disabilities (K-12) and is a certified Special Education Teacher. She is the Lead Teacher for Lionheart’s middle and high school students. Abigail also serves as our Pre-Vocational Coordinator in partnership with Lionheart WORKS. She cares deeply about these teenagers and young adults and is honored to be a part of each of their stories. She is passionate about their social and emotional journeys, their academics and life skills, and about building enriching and interactive environments that develop students into their best selves.

Mary Catherine Reynolds, M.Ed.

Mary Catherine joined Lionheart in 2011 after graduating from The University of Alabama with a degree in Special Education. She received her master’s degree from Georgia State University in 2016 with dual certification and focus on P-5 special education. Mary Catherine has a passion and love for young children. After a brief time away from Lionheart, she is excited to return as a lead teacher for one of our elementary classrooms.

Stacey Richards, B.S.

Stacey graduated from Reinhardt University with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked in the public school system for 11 years. She started as a paraprofessional; after earning her degree, she taught for 6 years in a self-contained autism classroom. Stacey is very excited to join the Lionheart team.

Kerry Sloe, B.A.

Kerry graduated from Davenport University in Michigan with a degree in Business Management and Communications. She holds certifications as both a personal trainer and a nutrition coach. Kerry has enjoyed volunteering as a girl scout troop leader, youth group leader, and Dual Enrollment parent advisor. She is excited to be a Lionheart team member and continue learning from the school’s fantastic staff.

Shelly Solomonson, B.S.

Shelly possesses a passion for teaching and has worked in the field of special education for over 20 years. She has focused her career on students with emotional, social and academic challenges. Shelly received her degree from UGA and is a certified Special Education Teacher. She has been affiliated with the Lionheart School for the past 15 years in different capacities, including lead teacher, substitute teacher, and job coach for the Lionheart WORKS program. Prior to working at Lionheart, Shelly taught elementary school students with behavioral challenges for the Atlanta Public School system. Shelly finds great joy in empowering students to be the best versions of themselves, supporting them in building meaningful relationships, and inspiring them to learn. Shelly is a Lead Teacher in one of our middle school classrooms.

Jackie Tucci, B.S.

Jackie received her degree in physical therapy from California State University and has been an integral part of Lionheart for many years. Jackie has passion for Floortime™, and has received a Basic DIR®/Floortime™ certificate of mastery for Stanley Greenspan’s model.  She also recently completed the regional year-long intensive Floortime™ course.  Jackie has a daughter in our Lionheart WORKS program and has been immersed in the DIR® philosophy since 1997.  Prior to Lionheart, Jackie worked as a physical therapist for 20 years.  She is currently an assistant in one of our elementary classrooms.

Kathy Sponsler, M. Ed.

Kathy serves as Lionheart’s Reading Specialist. She graduated from the University of West Georgia with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation. Kathy then earned a Master’s degree in Special Education from Brenau University. She taught fourth grade in the public school system before joining Lionheart in 2009. Kathy is certified in the Orton-Gillingham method for reading instruction and has completed the Lindamood Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking course. When Kathy’s godson was diagnosed with autism at age 3, his parents introduced her to the DIR®/Floortime™ model. Then, Kathy realized her passion.