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 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.
Co-Founder of Arrow Academy
Jessica Swanson was born and raised in the suburbs of Connecticut. As a child, Jessica had a passion for education, languages, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She was a first generation college student and graduated summa cum laude at the University of Bridgeport. She earned her bachelor’s degree in International Political Economy & Diplomacy with a concentration in East Asian studies. As an undergraduate, Jessica studied abroad in South Korea and Brazil. She can speak Korean, Portuguese, and Japanese. At the age of 21, Jessica was awarded her black belt in Jiu Jitsu after placing second at the UAE World Pro competition in Abu Dhabi, and winning the World Championships at brown belt in Los Angeles, California.
After college, Jessica moved to Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to train and teach Jiu Jitsu at the highest level. After two years of traveling back and forth between Brazil and the US, Jessica settled in Naperville, Illinois where she now continues her passion of teaching self defense to women and children at a local Jiu Jitsu academy. She is also TEFL certified and in her free time enjoys teaching English to students in Beijing, China.
Jessica is a happy dog mom to Bia, Paulo and Lucas. Her favorite foods are tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and chicken stroganoff. She hopes to be able to see the Rolling Stones in concert one day as she shares a birthday with Mick Jagger.
Spark/Middle School 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.
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