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aata Staff

Shannon Ledford


Shannon brings the experiences of growing up as a farmer’s daughter in northern CA and being with the land to her time as a corporate lawyer in Manhattan that helps her to anchor the structures that we can then flow into.   She also was a travel photographer all over the world and ran her photography business for 7 years. 

Presently, she works with private clients in her capacity as an Ancestral Medicine Practitioner to help them heal their blood lineages in safely held ritual space.  The rhythm of her life is informed deeply by her ancestors.  She moves in the world backed by her wise and elevated Italian & English grandmothers and grandfathers. 

On a personal note, she is the mother to 2 girls and is learning from them every day as we navigate our world together.  She and her husband continue to bring their small homestead to life project by project.

Shannon looks forward to working with all our families this year to create a stable loving learning environment for all our kids. 


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
Rebecca Spitaleri

Misti leatherwood

With over 20 years of working closely with children in a variety of educational and caregiving settings, Misti is thrilled to join the AATA staff as the Leads Grades Instructor. Misti’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.

Lead Grades Instructor

Liza Pierce

Grades Math Instructor 

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!

Liza Pierce

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.  

Lead Kinder & Equine Instructor
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Maggie Willis

abby willis

Handwork & Grades Instructor

Abby brings her great enthusiasm for life and children to her time at AATA. She has 15 years of experience with Handwork crafts and Animal Arts. Abby offers LA instruction to our 6-7 year olds, along with running the AATA library. She concurrently works with On The Forest Floor, and supports with the Equine Program at AATA. 


Troy Brengle

Therapeutic 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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Troy Brengle

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. 

Kaitlyn Taylor
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