Experience how Acton is transforming education in this independent, award-winning documentary.

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Our Story


We started this school because, like most parents, we want the best for our children. Specific to our school search, we found an array of good options, even a few very good options, during our school search for our boys. The closest fit we found was a play-based preschool that integrated democratic principles (they made their own rules) with projects they could choose. Our boys thrived in this environment, but sadly they didn’t do primary school. The search continued, with a Montessori based charter school and a small, progressive and very caring private school that were both good. But we wanted better than good; we wanted the unthinkable: extraordinary learning and life experience for our boys.

When we were looking into school options leading up to our big move from CA to NH, an idea started to grow in our heads that we couldn’t shake: why not open our school? Years before, in his twenties, Brian had been a school teacher and guidance counselor and although he loved working with children, he often clashed with and was disheartened by the way traditional schools tried to systematize learning, often stripping the fun, discovery, imagination, and inspiration out of the educational experience. He researched alternative philosophies that were more child-led and democratic, models that gave children the freedom to choose, dream, and create.

Fast forward to now, we are both in points in our careers where giving back and living our gifts has become a priority: opening an Acton Academy was a perfectly logical choice. With Sarah feeling her entrepreneurial calling and Brian revisiting his educational dreams that he wasn’t ready to actualize earlier in life, it is a perfect fit. We feel like we are on our own Hero’s journey, and we want to take our kids, our team and your kids along with us. So come on board!

We promise adventure, inspiration, profound life lessons and pure magic. We promise to journey with you, forging ahead into uncharted territory. We promise to create space for our children to grow, thrive and challenge themselves to be the best versions of themselves. We promise to help our children discover and boldly share their unique gifts with the world.

Sarah Cheek
Co-Founder and Head of Acton Academy Seacoast

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Our promises to your child

They will:

  • Begin a Hero's Journey
  • Learn to be a curious, independent, lifelong learner.
  • Develop a deep respect for economic, political and religious freedoms.
  • Cherish the arts, wonders of the physical world and the mysteries of life on Earth.
  • Discover his or her most precious gifts and learn to use them to solve difficult problems.
  • Understand the importance of strong character.
  • Value a healthy lifestyle of mind and body.

Our Team

Sarah Cheek
Acton Academy Seacoast Co-Founder

Sarah is a mom of three young boys who is coming into her own as the service-minded entrepreneur that has always lived inside her. She was a bedside nurse for 12 years and then evolved that career into a process improvement leadership role, implementing Lean healthcare principles to improve safety, service and patient outcomes. She led health organizations (surgery centers and hospitals) down the Lean path – working with executives and front line staff and everyone in between to rethink their organizational habits, dig deep to foster much needed (and at times painful) change, and to re-imagine systems and thought processes in ways not previously dreamed possible. She went on to help families, and specifically moms of young children, to apply these systems in their personal lives to gain efficiencies, lower daily stress, and create more time for personal renewal.

Starting a school for her children feels like the next logical step for her in her journey to expand and serve more people. Building an educational village, starting with her children is a dream that excites her. The moment she learned about the Acton Academy model, she knew it would be a part of her life path.

Brian Cheek
Acton Academy Seacoast Co-Founder

Brian has been an Actuary, corporate consultant, teacher, guidance counselor, tutor, entrepreneur, and realtor. Common themes running through his varied experience include a deep caring for his students and clients, a desire to help people make their best decisions in any given moment, and a calling to express himself authentically, to continually expand, grow and inspire others. As an educator, he has always stood up for the child in all of his roles; he has dreamed of a school environment with more freedom, exhilaration, and discovery and is now grateful for the opportunity to turn that dream into reality. He has mentored children to navigate the school system while rediscovering their unique gifts and skills and currently coaches adult clients to realize their full potential. He has become more aware and conscious about his life as an adult and is so excited to allow young people to awaken this magical part of themselves as children.

Jeff Sandefer

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 Sandefer

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."

I learned so much from being an Acton parent and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. There is no question that my life would not be what it is today had I not cultivated an Acton mindset. I grew a great deal by learning to parent our daughter through her “failures” at Acton (some of these “failures” lasted years and required lots of humble learning).

Hi, I'm Sarah Cheek.

Co-founder and Head of School at Acton Academy Seacoast

We would love to hear from you!

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