THE PEOPLE BEHIND ARROW ACADEMY
Guidance, Inspiration, and Support
Co-Founder of Arrow Accelerated Academy
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.
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.
Daughter and granddaughter of teachers, Emily Lewis is confident that her work as a Guide is part of her “Hero’s Journey.” Emily was born and raised in sunny Tampa, Florida. She spent her early years with her hands in the dirt; she continues to be deeply appreciative of nature and incorporates this into her teaching.
She attended International-Baccalaureate and Theater Arts Magnet high schools, graduating at the top of her class with a 3.9 GPA. She studied Theater Performance at the University of Florida with multiple achievement-based scholarships, and graduated magna cum laude.
Over the last five years, Emily worked as an early childhood educator, guiding learning through play and cultivating mutual respect and safety. She believes that every person is inherently good. She has studied the principles of Dr. Becky, Dr. Nicole Le Pera, Drs. John & Julie Gottman, and Dr. Joyce Swarzman to guide her relationships with students. She is particularly interested in the development of emotional intelligence and regulation skills. She is honored to play a role in facilitating the journey that each individual child is on.
Emily performed across the Chicagoland area in educational theater for young audiences as Fern in Charlotte’s Web and Wendy in Peter Pan. She has performed in professional regional theaters and in an Off-Broadway workshop. She also does character events as princesses and superheroes. She infuses the playfulness, imagination, listening, and improvisation of theater into her interactions with students, as their own creativity and gifts shine.
Emily spends her free time learning, hiking, singing, cooking, and caring for her dog, Daisy.
Primary and Secondary Guide
Mr. Ryan is an adventurous soul who has a passion for traveling and exploring new places. He received his Bachelors degree from Aurora University, majoring in Criminal Justice. He developed a passion for working with young people while serving as a mentor for youth in juvenile justice settings. He began working in education and realized the impact he could have working in schools.
Ryan's love for adventure was sparked during his college days when he studied Anthropology and Sociology. Since his college days, he's been hooked on traveling and seeing the world. Ryan loves to immerse himself in different cultures, try new foods, and make new friends along the way. Ryan has active friendships with friends from Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Greece, Poland, Brazil, and Canada.
Apart from his love for traveling, Ryan is also a dog lover and proud owner of two furry companions, Knight and Benji. These two dogs have become an integral part of his life, and he loves nothing more than spending time with them. Ryan enjoys taking them on long walks, playing fetch, and teaching them new tricks. In his free time, Ryan can often be found planning his next adventure or researching new travel destinations. He's always on the lookout for new and exciting experiences. Ryan's zest for life and love for his dogs make him a true adventurer at heart.
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