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Michael is the Head of School at Acton Academy West End. He has always told people that he was going to work with students, he just didn’t know if that was going to be in a school or a church. He graduated from Christopher Newport University with a bachelors in History and was about to enter the teaching program at CNU when he felt called to full-time Youth Ministry. He later left youth ministry to join his wife in her growing photography business. It has now come full circle and Michael has returned to education and is excited to be a co-founder of Acton Academy West End as well as the head of school.
 He is excited for the self directed focus and pace of learning for Acton Learners. Michael still enjoys learning about history and loves living in Virginia where we are surrounded with our nation's history. He loves riding their Peloton bike and he just completed his first 10k. Michael enjoys meeting kids on their level and talking to them about what they like learning about. He knows great things are going to come out of Acton Academy West End and is excited for the journey! 

Head of school


Rachel is the mom of four energetic kids, ages 6, 5, 4, and 2 (all 15 months apart!) Embracing the chaos is one of her specialties. She enjoys painting, playing board games, writing poems, soaking up sunshine, collecting silly earrings, and getting her hands dirty. From the moment she was old enough to babysit, most of her jobs have been centered around children. She genuinely enjoys their company, their perspective, and watching their curiosity bloom.
Rachel is a huge fan of “all things Acton.” She especially loves the space Acton allows for learners to discover their passions and find their calling. Already, Rachel has seen a beautiful transformation within her family thanks to the wisdom of Acton Academy. She’s excited to continue her Hero’s Journey! 

Sparks Guide


Ariel is the Lead Guide of the Discovery Studio at Acton Academy West End. Since her teen years Ariel has been working with children. Starting out in a much more traditional setting, she worked her way to becoming a lead teacher at an early childhood education facility. She quickly realized that the restrictions placed on both her and the children stifled their combined and individual curiosities and creativity in learning. Since then she has nannied for a family with two wonderful girls in the Goochland community. One of the things she has enjoyed most is watching the children blossom into all that they were created to be with the freedom to learn on their own terms and in their own way. 
She enjoys being creative and delving into the world of possibilities in learning and growing on a daily basis. Ariel finds joy in painting, reading, interior decorating, thrifting and exploring the outdoors. Since discovering Acton Academy, Ariel has connected deeply with the philosophy of aiding children to think for themselves and learning how to learn, do, and be. A committed lifelong learner herself, she is eager to help the Eagles along their journey to becoming just that in themselves. Facing and embracing challenges and watching the Eagles overcome and realize all they are capable of is one of the things that she is looking forward to the most. Ariel is excited about her own Hero's Journey and all there is to come here at Acton West End!

Discovery guide


I grew up enjoying learning and exploring the outdoors. My father was the director of a museum in northern Virginia and also taught teachers Socratic mentality for the classroom. This environment sparked my curiosity of learning and the familiarity of asking questions to learn more. From there I went to Radford University to pursue art education and forensic anthropology (forensics was a love I stumbled in to while at college). However, after being a teacher’s aid at an elementary school I knew traditional schooling was not for me. Then after meeting my husband at Virginia Tech and moving to Richmond, I decided to shift my love of teaching to raising my own two children. We discovered Acton while looking for education for our daughter and it’s been a perfect fit! We love being a part of the Acton parent journey.
I enjoy filling my free time with gardening, learning permaculture, riding my horse, and experimenting in the kitchen. My husband and I love exploring the Richmond food scene and relaxing on our screened porch. I’m excited to watch learners challenge themselves and dig deep to find and develop their true potential. I truly believe that every child is a genius and has unique talents and passions for their life’s purpose.

Apprentice guide

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check out these recommended resources


acton academy: disruptive education

GROWTH MINDSET Vs. Fixed mindset



imagine if we invented school today

Acton Academy: A Day in the life

TED: Do Schools kill creativity?

TED: Rethinking Education

TED: Teach for mastery- not test scores

TED: Grit- the power of passion and perseverance

TED: education post-covid

Acton academy Puts the kids in charge - interview with acton Founder, Laura Sandefer

How to educate your children - Jordan Peterson interview with acton Founder, Jeff Sandefer

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none scheduled at this time