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.

Tracey Dondzila, B.S.

Tracey graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy. While her early career in Texas and California focused on adults, she has been dedicated to the pediatric realm for the last 15 years through a private practice near Emory. Tracey is certified in Floortime DIR, Integrated Listening Systems, Handwriting Without Tears, Interactive Metronome, and has extensive training in sensory integration, ASD, and dysgraphia. She joined the Lionheart team in 2020 and feels blessed to be working and learning alongside the amazing staff and students.

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.

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.

Grace Karraker, B.S.

Grace graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in Special Education. She volunteered with Extra Special People, Butterfly Dreams Farm Therapeutic Riding, and other non-profit organizations in Athens. She also worked as a Behavioral Therapist. Grace has completed the Comprehensive IMSE Orton-Gillingham 30 hour Training. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Special Education at UGA and is expected to graduate in December 2021. Grace is looking forward to being a teacher assistant this year and to having the opportunity to learn from Lionheart’s incredible staff.

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.

Hannah King, 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 assistant in our high school classroom.

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. Since returning to work after several years off with her children, Linda has worked for 4 years as a behavior therapist in a public elementary school setting. Linda recently moved to the Alpharetta area with her family and is excited to be a part of the Lionheart team as a teacher assistant.

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.

Amanda Mecum, M.A.

Amanda has a Bachelor of Science degree in both Special and Elementary Education from Winona State University and a Master of Arts degree in Curriculum & Instruction from St. Catherine’s University. For the past 18 years, she has been a special education teacher for K-12th grade students with a variety of special needs. After leading teams in developing an individualized education program for each student, she provided specialized instruction individually and in small groups using various instructional and research-based strategies. Amanda is a resource teacher for our upper school students.

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.

Jean Romfo, B.S.

Jean graduated from Purdue University with a degree in elementary education. She has been trained in Orton Gillingham and Lindamood Bell intensive phonics programs. Prior to joining Lionheart, she taught 30 years in Fulton County where she added her special education degree. After retiring, Jean still has a lot of energy and love for empowering students and inspiring them to learn. She is joining The Lionheart School as a lead teacher in one of our middle school classrooms. During several of her summers, Jean was part of Lionheart farm camps. It has always been a dream of hers to be a teacher at Lionheart! She’s excited to be part of the Lionheart team!

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.

Monica Stringer

Monica is currently attending Kennesaw State University as a Psychology major, who will graduate this December. She was a counselor for our summer farm camp and assisted the Lionheart students last year at their weekly hippotherapy at the farm. She is very excited to become an assistant and join the Lionheart team.

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 for eight years in the public school system, and joined 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. It was then that Kathy realized her passion and desire to teach at a school like Lionheart.

Amber Turman, B.S.

Amber graduated from the University of West Georgia with a degree in Early Childhood Education and is certified to teach PreK-6th grade.  After graduating, Amber has taught for over 10 years in Fulton County Schools as a Kindergarten and Second grade teacher. She has a strong background in teaching early literacy, reading and math. Amber joined The Lionheart School in 2014 and is the lead teacher in Lionheart’s youngest classroom. She is passionate about her students;  meeting them wherever they may be.  Her focus in the classroom is to nurture the whole child, helping each student reach their full potential.