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Difference Between a Teacher and Guide

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We're Joe, Emily, Katelyn and Michael and we’ve decided to do school “differently” for our children and other children in our community!  



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What’s the difference between a traditional teaching role and the role of a guide? That’s one of our most-asked questions!

Guides at Acton Academy are game makers who create exciting challenges, set  boundaries and invite Eagles to start a life changing journey! Guides believe each Eagle is a genius who deserves to find a calling that will change the world. They offer real world challenges that connect with young heroes. Guides encourage Eagles to create covenants to govern the studio and then allow Eagles to learn from mistakes.  


Guides feed and nurture learner driven communities through the rhythms, rituals and reflections that build a healthy community, proposing intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for individuals, squads and the studio to boost intentionality and energy. One additional role of a Guide at Acton Academy West End is to record, document and simplify processes so Eagles can become game makers themselves. 


Guides celebrate as Eagles take on more and more of a Guide’s responsibilities until having an adult in the studio is no longer even necessary.   At Acton Academy West End, Guides are less of an authority figure and more of a coach, cheerleader, advocate, and encourager! 


Traditional schools have classroom teachers to maintain discipline, share knowledge and assign grades.  The teacher-to-student ratio at most traditional schools is 1 adult to 20 or 30 students. While we do not have a traditional student-teacher dynamic at Acton Academy West End in the studio… we do have an infinite amount of teachers/experts available to our learners!  Our Eagles have access to experts from all over the world — from Sal Khan to Richard Feynman to an unknown genius on a YouTube video —  plus Socratic coaching from peers; mentors from scores of professions and heroic role models from the past.  


At Acton Academy we equip Eagles to engage teachers, coaches, experts and mentors whenever they need one, rather than to be captive to a single teacher-as-authority figure. Curious about the differences between a traditional teacher and an Acton Guide?  




If you’re new to the Acton model, welcome!

  Doing education differently in a post-pandemic world | Acton Academy West End  

We’re Katelyn & Michael Alsop and Joe & Emily Malizia and we’re excited that you found this blog post! In 2020, we started dreaming about what education could look like for our children. It was right in the midst of the pandemic and we saw the turmoil in the midst of the traditional public school system. We knew there were good people in the public school system and alternative options for school in the private sector but the more that we did research, the more we realized that even a private school experience isn’t what we desired for our families.

We are entrepreneurs. I (Katelyn), started a business at 20 years old from my college dorm room and then grew it to a place where it supports my entire immediate family.  Michael and Emily both work for our business in different roles and together we scaled a simple photography company to a global educational brand with over 25,000 online students. After years of being in the corporate world, Joe started his own transformational life coaching business and now uses his relational gifts to change people’s lives while also living with the freedom to design his days the way he wants.

Our jobs have changed us. We are living our daily lives experiencing the joy of using our gifts to fulfill our purpose and also bring in profit. We believe that every single person has unique passions and abilities that are purposeful. It’s through these gifts that an individual finds fulfillment and their life’s purpose.

So, what do our stories have to do with the traditional school system?

Our experience in business and our own personal life stories have made us aware of a few things when it comes to the educational model we’re choosing for our children:

1. We don’t want our kids to miss out on finding their passion in life. We want to do everything we can to give them a fair shot at discovering their passion. 

2. We don’t believe the “normal” approach to education is actually the best way to learn and just like we’ve found freedom in doing our “work and careers” differently, we think education can be done differently too. 

3. To truly thrive in business and in the job market, you need skills that aren’t taught in traditional education. We want our kids to learn how to read people,  to practice respectful socratic discourse daily, to understand character flaws and personal responsibility. It is our desire for them to learn what it means to show up for people, keep commitments to themselves and others, and learn to govern their time and then feel the pain of failure if they don’t do it well. 

4. We want our kids to fail often and cheaply. We want them to learn early that failure is a part of life and they have a choice to show up with a growing mindset or a victim mindset. 

5. We value our children to stay active and spend time outside and not behind desk for hours and hours of their childhood. 

6. We desire for their gifts and passions to be celebrated and not minimized. We also want them to be encouraged to figure out how to use their passions to contribute to society and make a living. This means being aware of opportunities and encouraged to try new things!

Last but not least, we realize that we love our passions and we love our jobs. We knew that we couldn’t homeschool our kids and still maintain our roles in our businesses. We also knew that we desired to be in community with other families that shared a similar mindset.

In 2020, we found Acton Academy and realized that literally everything we longed for was possible and already happening around the world. Acton Academy is a micro-school concept that is built upon the belief that young people are capable of being responsible for their own learning. These multi-age studios use socratic learning styles, have guides instead of teachers, are strategically smaller in size, celebrate being active and hands-on while learning and require a learner to have personal responsibility to fully access the freedom of this school concept.

It’s exactly what we want and more. The play-based learning, the daily socratic discussions, the character building, the quests, the use of technology in a mindful and intentional way… is a dream come true!!!

The only problem was….

While there are close to 400 Acton’s around the work, there wasn’t one close to us. After almost 9 months of praying and seeking wisdom about this decision, the four of us decided to launch our own! We haven’t looked back since! We’re thrilled to bring Acton Academy to Richmond, Va!


— The Acton Academy West End Team

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