Experience how Acton is transforming education in this independent, award-winning documentary.

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Our Story

From day one we attempted to teach our children that they are here for a special and unique purpose. That they possessed something to be given to others. That they are the Hero of their own life. We attempt to instill that kindness is irreplaceable, and it’s impossible to ignore.

When our daughter was born, we asked, “Where can we send her that will allow her to pursue and flourish in things SHE chooses?” After testing out a few pre-schools, we realized quickly we would have to develop our own. Similar to so many others, our search led us to Acton Academy, a learner-driven network of micro-schools with the purpose to equip families to follow their own Hero’s Journey through learning to be, learning to do and learning to learn.

We believe that the lost art of communication, combined with conscious decisions and kindness will position children to become the Heroes of their community, and leaders in any endeavor they challenge themselves with. We believe that the Hero’s Journey will guide children to solve problems. We encourage young people to learn to search for problems that need solutions rather than look for jobs. We believe a generation of Heroes that solve problems will change our world.

The Gardiner Family
(James, Susan, Ava, & Hank)

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Our Team

James Gardiner
Co-Founder

James’ experience come from the entrepreneurial and craftsman influence. Transitioning from High School directly to homebuilding when he was 17, his school experience was discouraging at best. Despite the agony of being chained to a desk (where he hid his Hot Rod magazines), he refused to be overshadowed by the threat of “if you don’t go to college, you’ll never get anywhere in life”. To bypass the “no degree” stereotype, when he was 23 he started buying small, inexpensive properties and starting small businesses, which include a Laundromat and a Hot Rod Shop.

Observing how children like himself were labeled as “problems” because the mold didn’t fit, he started an after-school STEM program to allow the “builders” and “creators” an opportunity to use their superpowers. James holds a degree in RWE (real world experience) from the University of Life. He is working toward his Masters in RWE currently, (where he still does not sit at a desk).

Susan Gardiner
Co-Founder, Head of Programs

Susan’s Hero’s Journey has taken her on many different paths including obtaining her B.S. in Psychology, working in group homes as a guide, starting an after school S.T.E.M. program for children, and co-founding a homeschool co-op. Each path has heightened her drive for igniting the passion and hope in children. She believes that everyone has a purpose in life and looks forward to encouraging and equipping others to find theirs as well.

Jeff Sandefer
Advisor and Acton Academy Co-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 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.

Laura Sandefer
Advisor and Acton Academy Co-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 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."

"The thought of a learning environment that incorporates active learning, includes all the senses, and emphasizes a pursuit personalized to your individual gifts, sounds amazing. What kid doesn't deserve that?"

Our promises to your child

They will:

  • Begin a Hero's Journey
  • Learn to be a curious, independent, lifelong learner.
  • Develop a deep respect for economic, political and religious freedoms.
  • Cherish the arts, wonders of the physical world and the mysteries of life on Earth.
  • Discover his or her most precious gifts and learn to use them to solve difficult problems.
  • Understand the importance of strong character.
  • Value a healthy lifestyle of mind and body.

Our Beliefs

We believe each child has a gift that can change the world in a profound way

We believe in a closely connected family of lifelong learners

We believe in learning by knowing, learning by doing and learning by being.

We believe in economic, religious, and political freedom.

Hi, I'm James Gardiner.👋

I'm Co-Founder of Acton Academy Amador.

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