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Banyan Tree Staff is trained to not only provide academic and learning assistance, but to integrate the instruction into a nurturing environment, building a caring relationship with each student.

By developing a trusting relationship, students feel valued, respected and successful, which can enhance academic and emotional growth. We focus on the WHOLE child and work with families to create a strong support system.

Nanci EngleFounder and Executive Director
Educational Therapist

Nanci has a BS in Speech and Language, credentials in Learning Disabilities, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, General Education, and a M.Ed. in Education. Nanci moved to San Diego from northern California in 1986. She received a Certificate in Educational Therapy from UCSD in 1995 and opened Banyan Tree Learning Center in 1998, to help students “who fall through the cracks.” An educator for over 30 years, she has experience as a Special Day Class Teacher, Resource Specialist, and Mentor Teacher. She is a member of the Association of Educational Therapists, Learning Disabilities Association, and International Dyslexia Association. She is passionate about helping students overcome their challenges to find success, confidence and resilience. Nanci enjoys finding time to walk, write, and read, always a student herself!

Kathryn MacIsaacProgram Director, Foundations Academy – San Diego Program Director, Learning Center – Mira Mesa

Kay has a M.Ed in Special Education, a Multiple Subject K-12 credential, a Learning Disabilities credential. Her undergraduate work was in Speech & Language Disorders. Kay graduated from Oregon State University and moved to San Diego in 1977. She has worked in public schools, both as a classroom teacher and a special education teacher, was director of a franchised learning center, and had her own educational therapy business prior to joining Banyan Tree in 1998. She specializes in assessments, curriculum development, and program planning. She believes that achievement is usually preceded by challenges, and she often uses the quote by coach John Wooden, “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Kay is married and keeps busy with her three grandchildren.


Muriel BianchiPrincipal, Foundations Academy – San Diego

Muriel has been involved in Special Education throughout her entire career spanning over 40 years. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Special Education and Administration from USC in LA, and ESL and Reading Specialist Credentials from Hamline University in Minnesota. Muriel started her career in Oceanside working with Autistic and Developmentally Delayed Students, incorporating a “holistic” approach, focusing on the development of the whole child. She continued career in Minnesota, where she and her husband raised their children. Now as back in San Diego as Principal, Muriel’s main focus is on Teacher Preparation and Support for quality instruction and services for our students. Muriel and her husband keep busy with swimming, biking, and caring for their two Shih Tzu dogs, Jake and Elwood.

Karina BuntenProgram Director, Compass Academy – Point Loma Program Director, Learning Center – Point Loma

Karina grew up in San Diego until her family relocated with the military to Hawaii, where she finished her last two years of high school. She returned to San Diego to receive her BA at Point Loma Nazarene University in Child and Adolescent Development, with a minor in Psychology.  After an internship at Banyan Tree, Karina began teaching at BT Learning Center in 2015. Since then, she has spent extensive time teaching students at both Compass Academy and The Learning Center. She attended Acellus Camp and became an Acellus Certified Administrator in 2016. As Program Director, she is able to utilize her strengths in organization, leadership and development. Her favorite place to spend time is at the beach, where she enjoys paddling, swimming, and volleyball.


Tanja SuttonCredential Special Ed. Teacher, Compass Academy – Point Loma

Since high school there has always been an educational theme to Tanja’s volunteer activities like peer tutoring, classroom support, recycling education, and “Sunday-school” education.  Despite Tanja’s early interest in education, she took her parents’ advice to steer clear of teaching and earned a Bachelor’s of Science from U.C. Davis many years ago.  As a result of raising a child with a unique learning profile, she could no longer ignore her passion for teaching struggling students so she obtained her credential as an Inclusion Specialist from High Tech High’s 3 year Graduate School of Education Intern Program.  She is going back to school to get a masters of education. In her spare time, she enjoy spending time outdoors, playing board games with my family, reading and watching documentaries.

Jeff Credential Teacher, Encinitas Foundations Academy – Encinitas

Jeff has a Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, and an Education Specialist Credential (Mild to Moderate and Moderate to Severe). In Texas, Jeff served many roles as a Special Educator. He worked as a Resource and Inclusion Teacher. Additionally, he helped develop and implement a transition program for students with Autism. Since moving to Southern California in 2011 he has worked as a Behavior Instructor, Special Education Teacher, and Case Manager. Jeff specializes in motivating students, providing intensive reading instruction, and constantly staying up to date with the latest research based instructional strategies. Jeff is passionate about connecting with his students and fostering a love of learning. He considers himself a life-long learner and enjoys reading about nature, science, technology, history, and philosophy. Biking, hiking, and spending time at the coast or in the mountains are his favorite free time activities.