As parents of an inquisitive and outgoing toddler we were excited to witness our son’s experience in preschool. We hoped he would develop his curiosity and love for learning – and he did so in the Montessori school setting. Looking forward, the prospect of his future sitting at a desk most of the day without time or space to follow his natural interests or learn outside of instruction, motivated us to look more closely at alternative private school options. The bottom line for us was, we wanted our children to be curious and enjoy learning.
Reflecting on when I felt the most enthusiastic about my own learning, my 9th grade United States history class immediately came to mind. Our teacher never asked us to read textbooks and actually, he did not teach at all. He sent us to the library to research a pre-determined decade in history to discover notable people or events, such as a significant invention. The results of our research became what we used in his “history simulation”- a game designed to be played within the context of an imaginary economic system.
What my history teacher understood is that passive learning such as being lectured to, does not compare to allowing students to become responsible and active participants in their own learning. He also understood that learning and fun are not mutually exclusive. I may not be able to recall every detail of a historic event, but because of his simulation-style “teaching”, I became engaged and interested in history itself, I learned to gain knowledge on my own, and experience using that knowledge in a meaningful way by playing a part in history myself through his “game”. The skills I learned and being able to connect the dots between historic events and their consequences served me more than memorizing facts out of a textbook. I wondered why couldn’t all or at least the majority of learning take place this way?
After asking Google about alternative private schools it did not take long for us to stumble upon Acton Academy Austin. We were overcome with relief, exhilaration, hope, and gratitude. With Acton’s emphasis on courage serving as inspiration for us, we set out to embark on our own hero’s journey and applied to found a campus for our community. All that we have discovered since joining this unique group of passionate parents led by Jeff and Laura Sandefer who co-founded Acton Academy, has not only confirmed our belief in this model, but has served to further our excitement and passion for the idea that, as Jeff describes, “learning is a full contact sport”.
The Flores Family
Cristina Collana began her Hero’s Journey with Acton Academy Frisco in 2021. She previously worked as a NYS public-school educator, but quickly was discouraged after realizing the traditional education system needed to change.
After moving to Texas, she discovered Acton through a local family. Impressed by this innovative education model, she learned more and ultimately found her way to being part of the Acton Academy Frisco family.
Cristina fell in love with education again and has served as Lead Guide in both the Discovery and Spark studios. She has learned how to be Socratic Guide and gamemaker, developing quests, launches, and other recipes and tools to facilitate real learning. In her downtime, she can be found geocaching, swimming, traveling, and enjoying good company with her family, fur-baby, and friends. She is excited to help Acton Heroes navigate their own paths in the Hero’s Journey and the Acton community is blessed to have Cristina!
Autumn Jacobs discovered a deep passion for working with kids while serving in children’s ministry, directing children’s plays, and volunteering as youth leader at her church.
Autumn finds joy in witnessing the “smaller” moments in a child’s life, such as peeling their first orange, running their first mile, or any experience that brings child pride in their accomplishments.
Autumn moved to Texas a few years ago having lived all over the United States. She enjoyed the adventure of exploring new places and experiencing new things, like going hiking or locating an interesting coffee shop.
She is now settled in Frisco, working as a part-time Spark Studio Guide and as a barista at a local coffee shop. She continues to serve as middle school youth leader at her church. She is excited to be part of Acton Academy and Acton is excited to have her in our community!
After Cyndi Flores founded Acton Academy Frisco, she knew that gaining experience in the studio would greatly benefit her ability to serve Acton heroes. She continues to serve as Guide, spending more time ensuring the gamification of learning and being inspired by the geniuses who are choosing the Hero’s Journey.
Cyndi enjoys spending time with her two boys, even when that means being outside of her comfort zone trying new things. She loves to cook, dance, read, and if you ask her family- to organize everything. She is always planning projects, special events, and trips for the future. She loves meeting new people and learning from deep conversations.
She has always been interested in education, even as a small child, so it is no surprise that her Hero’s Journey led her to open an Acton Academy campus. She is grateful to be part of a global network of forward thinking parents, who inspire, connect, and equip each other to support younger heroes on their journey.
Acton Academy Advisor & Co-Founder Laura’s Blog
Laura lived on both US coasts and in between as a child, then settled into Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Science.
After being awarded the highly competitive Walter Wattles Fellowship at Lloyd’s of London, Laura worked in the aviation insurance industry in New York City. Deciding to follow her calling into the world of education, Laura returned to Nashville and earned her Master of Education at Peabody College. This led her to her work at the Oklahoma Arts Institute, creating fine arts education programs for teachers and talented high school students.
Laura married Jeff Sandefer and is the happy mother of Sam and Charlie and step-mother to Taite. It is the inspiration of these children that led Laura and Jeff to co-found Acton Academy.
Her greatest hero is her mother who was a Master Teacher. Her wisest mentor is her father who sent her off to college with two words of advice: “Be curious”.
Acton Academy Advisor & Co-Founder Jeff’s Ted Talk
Jeff Sandefer lives a dual life as an entrepreneur and a Socratic Guide.
As an entrepreneur, he founded his first company at age 16 and went on to found or co-found seven successful businesses.
As a Socratic teacher at the University of Texas, Jeff’s students five times voted him the school’s Outstanding Teacher and Businessweek named him one of the top Entrepreneurship professors in America. Jeff went on to co-found the Acton School of Business, an MBA program perennially ranked by the Princeton Review among the best in the nation. In 2012 The Economist honored him as one of the top fifteen Business School professors in the world.
Jeff is a graduate of the Harvard Business School, where he served for over twenty years on the school’s governing committees. He was a longtime director of the Philanthropy Roundtable and National Review magazine, and one of the youngest members ever elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.