- Laura Sandefer
Co-Founder and Head of School
Raised by a science teacher and minister, Laura lived on both coasts and in between as a child, then landed at Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Science.
After working in London and New York City in the aviation insurance business, Laura yearned to follow her heart into the world of teaching. She went back to Vanderbilt's renowned Peabody College and received her Master of Education. This led her to work in arts education at the Oklahoma Arts Institute. Laura later married Jeff Sandefer and has two sons and a step-daughter. It is the inspiration of these children that led Laura and Jeff to co-found Acton Academy. In addition to the role of head of school, Laura is the teacher of world history.
Her greatest hero is her beloved late mother who was a Master Teacher as none other. Her wisest mentor is her father who sent her off to college with two words of advice: "Be curious."
- Jeff Sandefer
Co-Founder and Middle School Lead Guide
Jeff Sandefer is an entrepreneur and a Socratic teacher.
As an entrepreneur, he began by starting his first company at age 16 and most recently sold Sandefer Capital: an energy investment firm with several billion dollars in assets.
As a teacher, he co-founded the Acton School of Business, a school dedicated to America’s next generation of principled entrepreneurs and famous for its 100-hour work weeks. The Princeton Review has consistently ranked Acton’s teachers, students and program among the best in the country. While at the University of Texas, Jeff’s students voted him the school’s Most Outstanding Teacher for a total of five times, and he was named by BusinessWeek as one of the top Entrepreneurship professors in America.
Jeff has been a longtime board member of National Review magazine, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Philanthropy Roundtable and the Harvard Business School and is one of the youngest members ever elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.
- Anna Blabey Smith
Co-Lead Guide Elementary School
Anna Blabey Smith has been at Acton Academy since it first opened in September, 2009. She began in the role of Assistant Teacher, and became Project Teacher in April, 2010. Anna has a Master's in Education from the University of Texas at Austin and received her Bachelor's from Hamilton College, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a major in Spanish and a minor in Psychology.
Anna has a background in experiential education, having facilitated challenge courses and outdoor education trips which emphasize learning through experiences. She had the opportunity to live all around the world as she grew up. She was born in Malaysia and has lived in the Ivory Coast, Chile, and Spain, as well as upstate New York, southern California, and northern Virginia.
- Abigail King
Middle School Guide
Within fifteen minutes of walking into Acton Academy as a prospective parent, Abigail King knew she was witnessing something amazing- students learning without unnecessary interference. After several years as an active part of the Acton community she believes deeply that the environment provided, anchored in respect for individuals, curiosity and the process of discovery, nurtures children's natural inclination to learn and to create in a way that will change and improve our world.
As middle school guide, Abigail brings to Acton a lifelong love of learning that includes an exploration of narrative via NYU film school, a journey into entrepreneurship as co-founder of a couple of Austin's favorite places to dine and unwind, and her experience as the homeschooling parent of two exuberantly curious children. She feels honored and delighted to come officially on board with Acton and participate in the unfolding of this next chapter of its story!
- Samantha Simpson
Co-Lead Guide Elementary School
Samantha was raised in Denver, Colorado. She attended the University of Denver where she majored in International Studies and French. She graduated in 2009 with Departmental Honors from The Josef Korbel School of International Studies. After the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Samantha was hired to help run schools and orphanages for a non-profit organization working in and around Port-au-Prince. While working in Haiti, Samantha discovered her passion and interest in education. Having attended an alternative school, she learned early on that an exciting, engaging education is possible. She is a life-long learner and seeks to help others discover the joys of learning.
- Terri Dove
Terri grew up in a small town in east Texas. From a young age she became aware of inherent injustices in our social systems leading to a desire to become a teacher. With a passion for art, she pursued art education earning a BFA with teacher certification from Texas Tech University in 2010.
Upon graduation Terri joined the Peace Corps as an education volunteer in rural South Africa. She co-taught English and led student driven art projects in government schools for 2 years. During this time she realized the necessity of education reform and her deep interest in alternatives to traditional schooling. Her passion is helping others express their creativity and in turn trust themselves. She is on a Hero's Journey to further revolutionize education and provide students from all backgrounds an opportunity to grow with freedom and love.
- Jeff Carpenter
Jeff Carpenter is a successful entrepreneur who has chosen to continue his Hero's Journey by sharing his knowledge and love of physical education with children. He has degrees from the University of Chicago and the Wharton School at the University of Pennyslvania, (though not in P.E., unfortunately).
Jeff has coached multiple youth sports for four years, and has been the "substitute" PE teacher at Acton since its founding. He is excited to teach and learn from the most wonderful children in the world.
- Marolyn Zoey Upshaw
Visual Art Guide
Zoey Upshaw graduated with a bachelor of fine arts with teacher certification from Texas Tech University and became a student of the universe for life. She has taught art at all grade levels in public and private schools for over 24 years. Zoey also has had an award-winning career in advertising art direction and design. She has two daughters who are artists in their own right. She is founder and principle teacher of Austin Creative Art Center since 1993. Zoey teachers art with a passion, just ask her students. Her teaching philosophy is simple: "I teach students not only the tools for success in the way they express art, but also in how they express life."
- Kaylie Dienelt Reed
Kaylie Dienelt Reed is a dedicated teacher, trained in the Montessori tradition. Mrs. Reed graduated Magna Cum Laude from Dartmouth College with a degree in Psychology and Brain Sciences.
Kaylie has been the lead teacher at Acton Academy since its founding. Before that, she taught as a lead teacher in a Montessori classroom (ages 5-7). She has completed the Elementary I and II (ages 6-12) AMS certification. She has also studied Art at the Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence and French at the American School in Switzerland, as well as participated in wilderness training at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Patagonia, Chile. View her resume (pdf). View her resume (pdf).