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Meet our team

Kate Dao

Parent & Founder

Kate is a lifelong learner. She believes children should have the freedom to explore their natural curiosity and creativity. When this happens, children are happy. They are self motivated because learning becomes a joy. Kate founded Acton Academy East Bay to create a space for students to experience education that encourages critical thinking, imagination, creativity, and exploration. Her mission is to give all students an opportunity to test their ideas to discover how and why things work, and to find answers to their questions in a caring and nurturing environment.

For the past decade, Kate has worked as an educator developing individualized programs for K-12 students that emphasize critical thinking and problem solving. Her work has helped countless students succeed academically and realize their full potential. Prior to her career in education, Kate worked at startups in the tech industry leading teams in marketing, HR, and business development. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of California at Davis and a master's degree from the California State University of Sacramento.

Daniell de Guzman Armstead

Elementary School
Studio Guide

Danielle attended a results-focused school as a child, that taught for the test and not for mastery or to discover passions. As an imaginative artistic person, this experience made her seek alternative education models. Danielle is an advocate for creative exploration. Her passion is to help students develop a love of learning and find their best vehicle to learn. Striving to always celebrate each student's uniqueness and individual passions, she is always a champion for self-expression.

Danielle joined Acton Academy because its methodology is deeply aligned with her own. She fully believes that every child should be able to discover and learn how to use their talents to solve difficult problems to change the world and that every child should develop a deep respect for the political, economic and religious freedoms. She is well known for her mindset that each person should always be their most authentic self. She has tutored 4-11-year-olds in writing, reading, and mathematics and received her BA from Mills College in English Literature. She is also a mentor and member of National CARES Mentorship Movement. In her spare time, Danielle enjoys pilates, hiking, geology, cooking, art, and literature. You can find her exploring her interests in various museums and theaters, fiddling about in her garden or searching for rocks to add to her rock collection!

Amanda Hanh-Davidson

Middle School
Studio Guide

Amanda graduated from the University of Evansville with a degree in Psychology. She spent several years teaching overseas and during that time came to understand, in greater detail, the differences in education around the world. She grew to admire the education models in European and Scandinavian countries for their focus on fostering independence and creative thinking in learning rather than rote memorization with testing and is excited to see this reflected in the Acton model. Amanda is looking forward to guiding students on their quest for knowledge.

Our Advisors

Laura Sandefer

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".

Jeff Sandefer

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 Entrepeneurship 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.

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.