aata Staff

Krista slavik

Academic Team Instructor

Krista can’t get enough time in the great outdoors and wants to share her love and passion for the joy that comes with connecting with nature in all aspects of our lives.


She revels in group song and dance, planting edible perennials, and learning how to help facilitate rites of passage. She has worked for 10 years as a farmer and studied documentary filmmaking in college. She has worked with young people for several years at Mountain Wisdom Camp, Buddha Babies, Forest Floor, Under One Sky, and Turtle Island Preserve and is delighted to immerse herself in the wonders of the world with the little ones.


Rebecca Spitaleri

As a young child, Rebecca was home-schooled and encouraged to allow her natural gifts to rise to the surface. She became a mother when she was 19, and from that point has dedicated her path to the well being of the next seven generations. As a nature mentor and educator, Rebecca guides children into having a deeper connection with the natural world with an embodied wisdom and grace. Rebecca is trained in Plant Spirit Medicine and Flower Essence Therapy in which she weaves into her early childhood teachings.

Kindergarten Instructor

Holly Hale

With over 12 years of working closely with children in a variety of educational and caregiving settings, Holly is thrilled to join the AATA staff Co-Teaching Kindergarten, and assisting Forest Floor. She allows her education and experience in Energy Work, Ayurveda, Performing Arts, and love for the natural world to influence her teaching. Holly’s intention at AATA is to help preserve and grow the magic that already exists within the students who attend, as well as facilitate powerful and meaningful co-creation.

Kindergarten Instructor

Liza Pierce

My name is Liza. During my childhood I attended an outdoorsy school in the mountains of North Carolina. I grew up loving school, nature and learning; knowing from a young age that I wanted to teach. I spent a year assisting in a K-1 classroom, followed by several years of teaching and training co-workers at local manufacturers. I'm a bright and optimistic person who has a passion for helping others to learn and grow. I loved learning in this kind of an environment as a kid and I'm honored to have the opportunity to pass it on to the future generations.


I teach math for ages 6-9 here at AATA. We all learn in different ways and young children learn best with multi-sensory activities. Therefore I teach with lots of hands-on activities to keep kids engaged and inquisitive, allowing them to use their energy and simultaneously work on fine motor skills. I plan to teach in a way that allows the kids to use their creative thinking to find multiple solutions and become truly comfortable with the concepts. I've always had a passion for math and numbers and I'm excited to be able to share my love for math with the kids!

Grades Math Instructor 

Troy Brengle

Middle School Math Instructor 

Troy received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Lenoir-Rhyne College. In 2007, he passed the Praxis II mathematics knowledge and pedagogy exams, earning the label of Highly Qualified to teach math. And for the past 20+ years, Troy has been working as a professional math tutor, helping students of all ages and levels achieve success with both academic courses and standardized tests. During this time, Troy has acquired valuable experience, knowledge, and insights which have inspired his development of a one-of-a-kind holistic approach to improving performance, some of which he hopes to integrate into the AATA experience. His primary objective, as he sees it, is to equip and empower his students to become competent, confident thinkers and problem-solvers. Celebrated by his peers for his calm, collected demeanor, Troy is a patient educator with a knack for explaining material in ways to which students can easily relate.  

Often seen teaching class sans footwear, Troy is AATA’s resident barefoot enthusiast and the founding footer of Barefoot Hikers Asheville and Barefoot Hikers of the Triangle. 

In 2020, during the height of the Mask Hysteria, Troy compiled the following educational brochure which asks--  and answers conclusively—the question “Are masks safe?” Spoiler: no, they’re not. 

Are Masks Safe?

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Image by Muzamil Ahmed

Michael Brasunas

Michael Brasunas is one of our middle school math teachers. He brings a deep love of learning and teaching to his class. In his twenties he was an assistant 1st grade teacher at a bilingual elementary school in Monteverde, Costa Rica, and a summer camp counselor for several years in Brevard, NC. He also has coached soccer and tennis and has had an avid love of working with children all his life. He is also the father of two boys, aged 7 and 12. He excelled in Math as a student himself throughout grade school and was selected to be on the Math Team in 4th grade and went all the way up through AP Calculus in High School. Professionally he has been in the healing arts as a bodywork and massage therapist, Energy Healer, and Craniosacral Practitioner. He brings his joy and humor, as well as sincerity and integrity with each person he works with, whether student or client. 

Middle School Math Instructor 

Maggie Willis

I have worked and ridden horses since I was 10 years old, taking a break from the equine world when I graduated high school and went on to study music education at Mars Hill University. After college I married my best friend Tom. We had three children and quickly decided to home educate as we shared a mutual love for experiential education and classical studies. From there we went on to form several homeschool cooperative groups. I taught reading, literature, theater arts and ancient languages such as Greek and Latin while Tom focused on teaching outdoor education, orienteering and mathematics. It was during this time that we began to pour ourselves into farm life, raising chickens and goats. We studied and taught animal behavior allowing the children to experience the tranquility that comes with animal husbandry. 

As my children got bigger I felt the call to once again pursue my dreams to be amazing with horses. It was during this time we discovered natural horsemanship. We began to learn principles for forming lasting partnerships with our horses through Psychology. This became a passion we wanted to share with other people. Tom studied and became a natural barefoot hoof trimmer while I focused on training and developing horses and learning to teach others how to follow this path. 

Many years later I am able to combine my two passions teaching children and training horses.  

Equine Instructor
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Emma tracy

Middle School Nature & Somatics

Emma Tracy has always loved working and learning with children. Her passions as a teacher focus on helping children to explore and strengthen their Intuitions and relationships to Nature. When she's not teaching you'll find Emma participating in life as a farmer, artist, medicine maker, philosopher, weaver, writer, and musician. 


Amanda Maishman

Pottery Instructor

I have a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in Graphic Design and Bookbinding. I have many years of experience in graphic design and marketing. Searching for deeper fulfillment led me to become a certified Shiatsu practitioner. I practiced Shiatsu for 10 years until I had children. My commitment to my children has led me to become a homeschool parent to allow their individuality and creativity to continue to be expressed as they grow. Through that experience, I’ve taught many subjects at a homeschool co-op. My adventure in pottery began 10 years ago as a creative outlet for myself. I quickly fell in love with the process of creating in clay. I am excited to bring my love and experience with clay to support the creativity of the children at AATA!


Nutrition Instructor

Organic Blueberries

ornella Lazich

Ornella has a background in Wellness for over 12 years with a focus as a Holistic Plant Based Chef and Wellness Consultant. 

She studied and worked in the legal field. She has a Juris Doctor Degree and an American Bar Association Paralegal Certificate.

She left the legal field in 2010 when her son was born and fully focused on wellness ever since with passion and tireless dedication. 

She works with various holistic doctors in Chicago and she is also a Medical Medium practitioner for over 6 years.

Ornella's expertise is in healing foods and herbs. She incorporates a healthy daily diet in a fun and creative way that maximizes the absorption of nutrients and boosts immunity.  


Her gift and intuition, along with Medical Medium"s information helped her guide many people to fully heal when conventional medicine didn't have any more "answers."

Nutrition Instructor & Wellness Chair


Kaitlyn Taylor

Therapeutic Support Consultant

Kaitlyn has over 15 years of experience caring for children. She has a BA in Human Development and has attended graduate school for professional mental health counseling. She has worked in early childhood education, community mental health, and family support services. While her area of specialty is social-emotional learning, Kaitlyn is skilled in mediation, addressing challenging behaviors, supporting mental and emotional wellness, leading support groups, and program development. Kaitlyn currently supports the AATA on a volunteer basis by observing classes and offering feedback to increase support for all children to meaningfully contribute to the AATA community.