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 an education that encourages critical thinking, imagination, creativity, and exploration. Her mission is to allow all students 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. Before 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.

Danielle 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 the 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!

Kaylee Pang

Middle School Studio Guide

Kaylee graduated from Arizona State University with Bachelor of Arts in Education. She is currently working toward obtaining her Master's Degree in Elementary Education. Her continuous excitement for learning gave her the desire to focus her future on helping students discover the same passions in education. Kaylee is an advocate for the individual student, she understands that students may learn differently. She holds communication as a top priority when helping students achieve their goals.

When not working Kaylee enjoys backpacking, DIY projects, traveling, and cooking. Kaylee often spends her weekends playing with her two dogs and enjoying time with her family.

Aleena Contreras

Apprentice Guide

Growing up, I always learned things the hard way. But for me, this was a good thing! Stubborn as I was, failing at first was the only way I could then learn from my mistakes and try again later. This process has helped me to grow and learn more than anything and I believe it is the most effective way for others to learn and grow independently as well. I am a first-generation college student currently studying Social Science with a focus on education at San Jose State University and will graduate in Fall 2020. Before Acton, I tutored freshman college English for two years and enjoyed helping new students acclimate to and prepare for college life. During my free time, I enjoy cuddling with my two cats Peter and George, watching all the newest movies, reading (my favorite is historical fiction), and doing DIY projects (my favorite is painting/staining wood furniture). My goals for the future are to earn a Master's degree in Education and to continue practicing the best model of education I can.

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.

Alison Mink

Art Guide

Alison has always had a love for art. As a child, she would ride her bicycle downtown to spend long hours in the art store; looking at all the art supplies and purchasing small items to take home and try. She also spent many years doing modern dance and folk dancing. She always loved attending the ballet, concerts, and plays as well as museums.

Alison received two AA degrees from Las Positas College in Fine Arts with an emphasis in painting and Graphic Arts and an AA degree in Technical Illustration from Foothill College. She spent about fifteen years as a printed circuit board designer and enjoys using her various skills when she creates patent illustrations today. She has spent many years guiding children in math and reading education and loves seeing children reach their full potential. She believes that including art in their education is so important to foster their creativity and happiness.

When not working Alison enjoys going to art museums and galleries, reading, attending exercise classes, hiking, cooking whole food plant-based meals and especially traveling.

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.