A different way. After 20 years working as an educator and administrator in public and charter school systems, with the latter five years striving to change the status quo of manufactured education, Mike Olson, decided to create a school not only as an option for parents looking for an alternative to outdated educational methodologies but a school reimagined. A place where students are excited to learn and where their curiosity and inclination are nurtured and valued.
With two young sons of his own, the desire to put his thoughts and dreams into action was stronger than ever before. During his MBA studies and post-graduation, he actively sought like-minded individuals with whom to partner and further his vision. As a result, he stumbled upon the work of Laura and Jeff Sandefer. His dream matched that of the Acton Academy philosophy and the rest, as they say, is history.
Acton Academy Champions, formerly known as Talent Unbound, is in its sixth year of operation. It first opened as a summer enrichment program in 2013 and became a middle school, operating out of a local church. Since then it has grown to enroll elementary and high school-aged students and as of October 2018, resides in its fully-functional campus with a capacity of housing 150 students.
What began as a vision has become a reality not only for Mike but for his entire family. His older son has attended since 2015; in September of 2019 his younger son enrolled and his wife, Leticia, left a 20+ year career in Public Relations to join the small but mighty Acton team.
The family is invested and committed to the belief that every child is a genius on a Hero’s Journey. Together, they continue to nurture Mike’s vision and are grateful to the families that have joined the Acton community to further empower their children at home and in the studio.
Our campus is located in 4820 Strack Road, Houston, TX 77069.
Mike Olson has been an innovator in K-12 education for over 15 years. He has worked at every level of the K-12 experience, from classroom teacher to a district level manager. He has been recognized as one of the top 70 educational entrepreneurs at the SXSWedu conference in 2015. And Acton Champions has been written about in Education Week magazine and has appeared on the top tier education blog, Getting Smart.
Mike loves spending time outdoors, is a father of two, and is a Rice University graduate.
Before joining Acton Academy, she was the director of corporate relations at the Houston Symphony, responsible for building corporate partnerships and securing financial support. Prior to working with the Houston Symphony, Leticia was the director of Institutional Giving at Genesys Works, accountable for proposal development, national partnerships, and streamlining contribution processes.
Additionally, Leticia worked for El Paso Corporation as a community relations officer, providing counsel and support to leadership, managing a $1M contribution budget for community and education projects, engaged and aligned the employee volunteer base to meet company vision, and collaborated with HR to meet workforce development goals.
She graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational and Corporate Communications.
I have been educating middle and high school students for over 20 years. Her career began with working in the inner city and then branched into teaching in rural Alberta. Her background is in Educational Psychology, Special Education and high school English. Aside from teaching, Jonita spoke internationally about assisting and accommodating students with learning disabilities, worked on curriculum development, and guided new teachers through the New Teacher Institute, a collaboration of Alberta Public School Boards. She homeschooled her two children before coming to Acton Academy and appreciates the diverse curriculum and approach of Acton. Helping Heroes take risks to overcome obstacles they never dreamt of tackling is Jonita's favorite part of being an Acton Academy Guide. She enjoys bearing witness as Heroes become increasingly empowered on their educational journeys.
Jonita is a passionate Canadian who feels fortunate to live in Texas and have the opportunity to call both Canada and the U.S.A. home. She enjoys chasing adventure and can often be found camping, hiking, paddling and traveling with her family. When at home, she enjoys reading, writing and creating art. Jonita has been a part of the Acton Academy Champions team since 2014.
Melissa Nelson has been guiding others in their education since long before she knew what that meant. From teaching younger siblings to read and tutoring classmates in algebra to homeschooling her dozen children for 23 years, Melissa believes traditional school holds children back from reaching their full potential and becoming who they were created to be.
Melissa is a certified nutritional Herbologist, which her children claim makes her a certified hippie and is working toward becoming a Master Herbalist. She has been active in the homeschooling community through teaching co-op classes, serving on the board of a co-op, organizing various events, and founding a homeschool group. In her spare time, she enjoys quilting and reading historical fiction.
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 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."
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