David Kirby, Cofounder
David is a nonprofit leader and executive who has never stopped learning in his varied career. He credits his passion for math and drive to learn to an early experience with Montessori. David cofounded the annual Acton Children's Business Fair of Washington, DC, to showcase the power of entrepreneurship for young children ages 6 to 14. He cofounded Acton Academy of Washington, DC, because he believes that school should be a place where children develop an entrepreneurial mindset and discover a calling. David has led organizations and projects in politics, policy, and development. He has degrees from Bates College and Harvard University, and he spent a wonderful year studying abroad at Oxford University. An advocate for lifelong fitness, David is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and CrossFit Kids Certified Instructor.
Nicole Spencer, Cofounder
Nicole’s passion for education comes from attending an alternative elementary school as a child. That experience nurtured in her a lifelong love of learning, something she believes comes naturally to children and that schools should encourage and protect. Nicole cofounded the annual Acton Children's Business Fair of Washington, DC, and every yearshe is awed by the creativity, passion, and joy the children bring to their entrepreneurial creations. Nicole is a Montessori primary assistant, and she has also worked in tech startups, marketing, public policy, and international development. She received her AMI Montessori primary and elementary assistant certificates from the Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University, and she has degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Chicago. Nicole enjoys knitting, meditation, and CrossFit.
Caitlin Spencer, Advisor and Guide
Caitlin Spencer is a second generation Montessorian who is passionate about applying Maria Montessori’s ideas in the 21st century. Caitlin is currently the head primary teacher (ages 3 to 6) at New York City’s Metropolitan Montessori School, the school she attended as a child. She holds a masters degree in early childhood education from Loyola University in Maryland, and she completed her AMI primary Montessori training at Montessori Institute Northwest in Portland, Oregon. Caitlin has traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa, and Southeast Asia and enjoys experiencing different cultures, learning how to cook new cuisines, and taking photographs.
Rachel Davison Humphries, Advisor and Guide
Rachel is a passionate Montessori educator, an experienced Acton guide, and a lifelong learner. She has a profound respect for children and delights in their innate curiosity about ideas. Rachel was part of the founding of Acton Academy in Austin, TX. Most recently, Rachel served as the lead middle school guide for Acton Academy Guatemala. Previously, she was the lead math and science teacher at Oak Farm Montessori School in Indiana and an adolescent instructor at Austin Montessori School. She is a certified AMI adolescent Montessori teacher and she has a degree from St. John’s College.
Jesse McCarthy, Advisor
Jesse McCarthy, author of the upcoming book Montessori Education, is an expert in Montessori and child development. He received his B.A. in psychology from UCLA and his AMI Montessori teacher's diploma for 3- to 6-year-olds from The Montessori Institute of San Diego. Jesse has worked with thousands of children, teachers, and parents through the years as an elementary and junior-high school teacher, as a head of school overseeing programs for infants to 8th graders, and as an executive and lead educator for LePort Montessori, the nation’s largest network of Montessori schools.
Jeff Sandefer, Advisor
Jeff is an entrepreneur and a Socratic teacher. As an entrepreneur, he began by starting his first company at age 16 and most recently sold Sandefer Capital, an energy investment firm with several billion dollars in assets.
As a teacher, he cofounded the Acton School of Business, a school dedicated to America’s next generation of principled entrepreneurs and famous for its 100-hour work weeks. The Princeton Review has consistently ranked Acton’s teachers, students, and program among the best in the country. While at the University of Texas, Jeff’s students voted him the school’s Most Outstanding Teacher five times, and he was named by Businessweek as one of the top entrepreneurship professors in America. He also cofounded Acton Academy (Austin), where he is a middle school lead guide.
Jeff has been a longtime board member of National Review, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, The Philanthropy Roundtable, and the Harvard Business School and is one of the youngest members ever elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.
Laura Sandefer, Advisor
Laura is cofounder and head of school of Acton Academy (Austin). Raised by a science teacher and minister, Laura lived on both coasts and in between as a child and then landed at Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Science.
After working in London and New York City in the aviation insurance business, Laura yearned to follow her heart into the world of teaching. She went back to Vanderbilt's renowned Peabody College and received her Master of Education. This led her to work in arts education at the Oklahoma Arts Institute. Laura later married Jeff Sandefer and has two sons and a stepdaughter. It is the inspiration of these children that led Laura and Jeff to cofound Acton Academy.
Her greatest hero is her beloved late mother, who was a master teacher as none other. Her wisest mentor is her father, who sent her off to college with two words of advice: "Be curious."