THE PEOPLE BEHIND ARROW ACADEMY
Guidance, Inspiration, and Support
Gina was first introduced to Acton Academy when she began searching for alternative education options for her oldest daughter. “I saw how innately curious she was about the world around her and how eagerly and naturally she pursued learning.” Gina feared that passion would fade in the constraints of a traditional learning environment - an environment that she was very familiar with as a public school teacher. Feeling that the options for alternative education were limited in the western suburbs of Chicago, Gina and her husband, Paul, chose to tackle the challenge of opening their own school that would offer the type of education they dreamed of for their children and other children in their community.
Gina brings over a decade of experience in secondary education to the school in her role as co-founder of Arrow Academy. She contributes her boundless energy and organizational prowess to overseeing the daily operations of the school. Gina is a mom of four and resides with her family in Naperville, Illinois.
While his entrepreneurial spirit is strong, Paul never imagined that it would lead him to founding his own school. However, watching how excited his children were to experience learning made him realize just how important it was to create a place where they would be able to approach learning in a hands-on and real-world relevant way. Paul and his wife, Gina, began searching for a way to give their children the education they deserved, and were led to Acton Academy. Together they have begun the journey of building a unique learning environment in the western suburbs of Chicago through the founding of Arrow Academy.
In his role as co-founder of Arrow Academy, Paul contributes his background in engineering, technology, and program management to the school’s initiatives. Paul shares his patience, humor, and determination in supporting the establishment of the school - qualities he has mastered as a father of four. Paul and his family live in Naperville, Illinois.
Co-Founder of Arrow Accelerated Academy
Secondary Studio Guide
Spark Apprentice Guide
Miss Sarah was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She fell in love with reading at an early age and developed a passion for writing poetry; she decided in third grade that she wanted to be someone who helped guide others on their paths and began her pursuit of a teaching career. As a life-long English honors student, she was involved in her school's Future City Competition and a contributor to her high school literary magazine while also participating on the swim team. In order to start her teacher training early, she taught swim lessons for several years to children aged six months to fourteen years through her school's H.E.R.O. work program. Later, she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor's of Arts in English Secondary Education from Northern Illinois University and was an award-winning student teacher in her program. After college, Miss Sarah moved to Nevada to start her teaching career at a brand new school but found that she missed her family in Illinois; although, she loved her students and found it hard to leave. She then worked in Aurora at a high school for students who needed additional support which led to her developing her tutoring company to provide assistance to those who were not getting enough support in traditional school. She worked the next twelve years in Elmhurst, Illinois schools winning several awards from both students and peers before choosing to move toward a new journey of her own which led her to Arrow Academy where she looks forward to working with a new class of heroes.
Miss Sarah loves reading, swimming, and hiking throughout the United States and Europe. Her favorite foods are keftedes (Greek meatballs) and anything that has chocolate in it! She hopes to one day retire in Greece and has been working hard to increase her reading and writing skills to be able to speak more fluently. She believes that each of us are destined to make the world a better place and hopes to help the heroes at Arrow Academy to pursue their passions and change the world.
Elementary Studio Guide
Born and raised in France, Delphine completed a mediocre education, not because she wasn’t able but school, as it was, didn’t suit her. Despite a poor education, she knew she had uncovered potential. She believed that the learner’s true engagement was key to success. This Confucius’s famous quote was a true inspiration:
“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Let me do and I’ll understand.”
At the age of 22, Delphine moved to Dublin, Ireland to learn English and eventually stayed there for 7 years! She worked in the Software and Medical Devices industries, in various Operation roles. It allowed her to have a good comfortable life but not a purpose.
With her husband Ben, Delphine moved to the UK and completed her bachelor’s degree so she could train as a teacher. Given her personal struggles at school, she felt she could make a difference. She completed her post-grad certificate in Primary Education (5 to 11 years old) in 2008. After taking a few years off to have children, Delphine was finally able to teach in a classroom! Excitement that was short lived because of the heavy administrative workload and box ticking requirements. Very little time was left to focus on learners’ engagement and enjoyment.
Delphine decided then that she would be better suited as a teaching assistant to get closer to the children particularly those with blocks to learning because of emotional, social, or special education needs. In various roles, she gained experience working and supporting children from 4 to 16 years of age. Her strongest inclination is towards working with the youngest learners, to support their first steps in literacy, the phase when they learn to read and write.
However, her own children, Juliette and Fabian, weren’t thriving at school. Bored and under-stimulated, she could see them losing their spark and natural drive to learn. In January 2019, Delphine quit her job and removed her children from school. Home-schooled, Juliette and Fabian were thriving again but missing that regular social connection.
In September 2021, an opportunity came up for the family to move to the Chicago area, Delphine first thought their only option was to home-school until she discovered Acton as an alternative education setting. She read the book, research the websites and videos. Incredibly, within a commutable distance to Ben’s work, there was an Acton Academy in Naperville! Juliette and Fabian have already been flourishing at Arrow Accelerated Academy and now a wonderful opportunity has arisen for Delphine to guide and support Acton Spark Heroes on their Heroes’ journey!
Spark Apprentice Guide
Amana Bhaimia was born in the UK and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. The first quality she ever recognized in her young self was creativity, which has remained at the core of everything she does today.
In elementary school, her neighbors called her “the neighborhood teacher” as she would take it upon herself to help her friends finish up their homework before play. By high school, she was tutoring students with ADHD who did not take to previous tutors very well. During college, she earned the position of TA in Human Dissection Anatomy and continued to guide her peers. As a first generation college student, Amana majored in Health Sciences at The University of Illinois Chicago, and completed her degree at Benedictine University.
Looking for adventure and a creative vessel, she set off to Los Angeles, CA after graduating. There, she tested her skills as an entrepreneur. Amana curated, taught, and managed a team of hair and makeup artists to work in the fast paced world of elite weddings, fashion shows, and photo shoots. The interpersonal skills she developed through twelve years in the industry solidified her as the people-person she always was.
After five years and two children, she returned to Chicago and settled in Naperville to be closer to family. Amana took motherhood on the way she does all things, full-tilt. After deep-diving into parenting books, child psychology journals, and developing an immense interest in early childhood education, it became clear she would leave her footprint as a compassionate educator and revolutionizer of the education system. This drew her to be part of Arrow Accelerated Academy. Here, she could quench her academic thirst and scratch her creative itch all while helping the people who matter to her most, children.
Those who know Amana best describe her as persistent, deeply empathetic, and artistic. Her life motto is, “to understand and to be understood”. If she had the chance to dine with one hero, it would be Fred Rogers. Her hobbies include spending time with her tight-knit family, yoga/meditation, throwing pottery, and mastering family recipes.
Co-Founder of Acton Academy Austin
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".
Co-founder of Acton Academy Austin
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.
Interested in becoming a Guide at Arrow Academy?
Qualified candidates will have a bachelors degree in education or a complimentary field. A short list of additional qualities we seek include someone who is highly conscientious, has a gift for connecting to young children, and possesses exceptional organization and planning abilities.
Are you ready to "answer the call"?
Co-Founder of Arrow Academy