Meet the team behind IGNITE: An Acton Academy
We’re unlike any school you’ve come across. Yes, we are a school but we’re also determined to hold high standards of professionalism. The community we serve —our families, and our learners— are the centre of everything we do. We’re committed to leading by example, to developing a family centric culture and we’ll always welcome and even solicit your feedback.
Interested in joining our team? Check out our careers page to see what opening we are hiring for.
HEAD OF SCHOOL, FOUNDER, CHIEF EDUCATION CHANGE MAKER
Lisa has a diverse career that started out in business as a corporate leader and member of the executive suite in the Wealth Management industry. From there she transitioned to entrepreneurial life where she coached and still coaches many high-performing businesses, individuals, and parents. Most recently, and with the eye-opening help of her children, she became aware of the problems inherent in the traditional, industrial-age education system, and founded IGNITE: An Acton Academy, as a 21st century solution.
Lisa is a mom of two boys, Garrett, age 9, and Gavin, age 11. Like all children, her boys have unique challenges and superpowers, including dyslexia and ADHD. Neurodiversity brings incredible gifts but they’re not always recognized as such in a typical school. School battles, homework and many tears were the catalyst to do something different.
In Lisa’s early career, she gained understanding and expertise in leadership, adult learning, and business coaching. She saw the tremendous value that a learner-driven, strengths-based, and experiential approach can provide. She also saw disparities between the recommendations of thought leaders and experts in the education field, and what was being provided to children in traditional schools.
She saw children who cried over going to school and doing home-work each night and couldn’t wait to grow up so they could stop learning. It was heartbreaking, and Lisa strongly believes that this doesn’t have to be the script we follow for our children.
More than anything she wants her children to find a love of learning.
Since switching her focus to the world of education, she’s been determined to find a better, 21st century approach. In early 2020, Lisa discovered Acton Academy and fell in love with the model that allows learners to be free to discover their unique strengths and character. At the same time, it also provides an empowering structure and environment for learners to become a force to be reckoned with. She loves the flexibility it allows learners to work at their own pace and in their personal zone of challenge, balanced with a focus on relationships and teamwork that honours diversity and community.
Lisa is a certified coach through the International Coach Federation, a trainer, a teacher, and a writer. Also in the sphere of education, she’s trained in the Orton Gillingham approach to structured literacy, developed to help dyslexic learners thrive with reading. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario with an Honours Business Degree from the Richard Ivey School of Business.
Lisa’s greatest dream is to change the definition of traditional education, having school systems across North America adopt a learner-driven, strengths-based approach. She sees the path to that dream as one child, one family at a time.
DISCOVER STUDIO GUIDE
Sarah is passionate about offering learning that’s inspiring, engaging, and fun. As a guide, she strives to honour and celebrate the uniqueness of each child and their own individual hero’s journey.
Sarah began her career in education as a high school math and science teacher. For over 10 years, she worked hard within the traditional education system to connect the dots between the theoretical and the real world for her students. She was constantly experimenting with unconventional tools, including independent investigations meant to help students discover math through activities that encouraged movement and collaboration.
During these years, Sarah also took on the role of Mom to four amazing girls, and her lens changed to not just that of teacher but also of parent. Seeing the gaps in the school system that her children were now a part of, her family made the decision to move to homeschooling. Here, Sarah thrived, not as a teacher but as a guide.
Sarah has a natural intuition for what works to create an engaging learning experience and has a keen interest in educational research. She has experimented with various teaching methods and curricula with the goal of improving learning and enjoyment. She’s especially interested in how we can think critically and communicate clearly and respectfully in an information-saturated and polarized world.
After years of successful homeschooling, Sarah was attracted to Acton Academy’s educational philosophy because of the agency it gives to children and its focus on building communication skills, critical thinking, and creativity. Meaningful, real-world projects and individualized pacing for core skills create an environment that is rich in inspiration and challenge. It brought together the values she believed in with a community atmosphere that would help her girls challenge themselves, and grow into their potential.
Sarah holds her Bachelor of Education from the University of Western Ontario and her undergraduate degree from Redeemer University with a major in Math and a double-minor in Science and Physical Education. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, Mark, four children—Aliyah, Kayla, Edyn, and Jaydn—and their dog, Bailey.
SPARK STUDIO GUIDE
Beverley’s passion for Montessori began at the age of 18, when after completing high school she began looking for a career path. She knew that she loved children but couldn’t decide between the various options available. She didn’t want to do what her friends were doing – unhappily dropping or transferring out of programs they had paid a lot of money for only to find they weren’t the right fit.
She decided to take the year off and volunteer, buying her time to explore and feel confident in her journey. As luck would have it, one of her volunteer connections was opening a Montessori school, and offered her an opportunity to join the team. These were the early days of the Sunshine Montessori School in Kitchener.
Beverley learned a lot in that first year, working as a paid aide in the morning, and volunteering in the afternoon. She fell in love with the Montessori philosophy when one day she witnessed a four year old pick up a trinomial cube that had accidentally been knocked over and proceed to quickly complete the three-dimensional coloured puzzle – a puzzle that had left even her, at the age of 18, perplexed.
In the years that followed, she gathered many fond memories of working in a growing and developing school. Sunshine grew from a one-room classroom to one with many rooms and classes, covering Casa (2.5 to 6 year olds) to Grade 8.
During this time, Beverley also completed her official training, earning an A.M.S. Montessori certification in New Rochelle, NY.
Ten years passed before Beverley decided to spread her wings, and moved to The Montessori School of Cambridge, once again joining a small and developing school. She worked her way up to the position of Supervisor, spearheading the opening of a second location. She also had the privilege to watch her own sons flourish while attending the Casa and Lower Elementary programs there.
In 2009, she moved back to Sunshine Montessori to follow her boys as they returned to schooling in Waterloo, where IGNITE was lucky to find her.
Beverley’s passion for learning, child development, and building relationships amongst children shines strong in the work she has done and the relationships she has built. She has been instrumental in building Schools from scratch and creating the sense of community we prioritize at IGNITE.
Beverley is excited to bring her deep experience to IGNITE: An Acton Academy, building on her Montessori training with a new and innovative twist. When asked to put her finger on one thing she is most excited about, it’s that, at IGNITE, administrators, guides, parents, and learners will work collaboratively towards a shared vision of developing strong, resilient, and confident young people.
Beverley lives in Waterloo with her two grown sons, Alexander and Andrew. She enjoys spending time with her family, kayaking, camping, hiking, reading, cooking, fishing, gardening, zip lining, exploring, and finding new adventures. No wonder she’s excited for the next step in her Hero’s Journey at IGNITE!
ENRICHMENT COORDINATOR & ASSOCIATE GUIDE
Laura has a deep passion for empowering others, whether that be in their confidence, independence, wellness, or their personal hero’s journey. She thinks outside of the box and is willing to challenge the status quo; as our enrichment coordinator, these are important qualities!
The majority of Laura’s career has been in the personal wellness industry as a health and fitness coach. She has worked as General Manager and Advanced Fitness Instructor and Trainer at GoodLife, an Ambassador at Healthy Role Models, and a Coach at Beachbody. She’s also a crafty entrepreneur, with her own Penny Love Creations business. In each of these roles, Laura focuses on community building, and collaborative communication that inspires the members of her community.
Laura is a mom of 3 girls and has worked as a volunteer and employee in schools in the roles of literacy tutor, support staff, and parent council chair. She is excited to now be developing her career with a learner-driven philosophy and community at IGNITE.
As our Enrichment Coordinator, Laura will work closely with other members of the IGNITE team and community to plan this program. Our vision for the enrichment program is that it connects our learners to the real-world.
Twice a week, our enrichment program has us leaving the school, or bringing new ideas, workshops, and speakers to us. We focus on:
1) connecting with the outdoors, nature, and our community
2) Deepening our learning about our Quest topic (e.g. entrepreneurship)
3) Exploring the interests of the children
4) Physical education, gross motor movement, and the arts
Laura brings this vision to life, in both planning and execution. Her love of the outdoors, community building, and out-of-the-box thinking are all invaluable to this program. She is actively working on building partnerships within our community.
Laura has her Bachelor of Physical Education with a focus on Movement Studies from Brock University. She also holds a Les Mills Advanced Trainer and Coach Certification. Laura lives in Erin with her husband, Eddie, 3 girls – Penelope (12), Eleanor (11), and Lucille (8) – and their dog, Jackson.
ADVISOR & ACTON ACADEMY FOUNDER
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 long-time director of the Philanthropy Roundtable and National Review magazine and one of the youngest members ever elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.
ADVISOR & ACTON ACADEMY FOUNDER
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 stepmother to Taite. It is the inspiration of these children that led Laura and Jeff to co-found Acton Academy.