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Our Story

We are a family of inquisitive, lifelong learners. You could also say we have an entrepreneurial spirit and are not afraid to write our own script. In fact, that is what we prefer to do. Yet, we found ourselves stuck in the same daily rhythm most of us experience. Wake up, take the kids to school, go to the office, pick up the kids from school, repeat. We decided to stop and reflect on what we were doing.

We set out on a journey to uncover other education options available to our family. Was the “Learning to Know” education our kids were receiving good enough? Sure. But we believe the more important learning is Learning to Learn, Learning to Do, and Learning to Be. This is the learning design we discovered with Acton Academy. And this is why we are bringing Acton Academy to Sioux Falls.

We believe every student who walks through our doors is a genius who is destined to change the world. We call it the Hero’s Journey. We believe students should be in charge of their own learning. We believe children are fully capable of self-governance and accountability. We believe that asking great questions is far more important than regurgitating correct answers.

If you and your family are curious, lifelong learners, believe students learn best through failure and solving their own problems, and approach life with a growth mindset; then we would love to have you join us at Acton Academy Sioux Falls on your own Hero’s Journey.


Aaron Johnson
Acton Academy Sioux Falls, Co-Founder & Head of School

Our Team

Aaron Johnson
Co-Founder and Head of School

Aaron is a visionary and entrepreneur. Intrigued by human psychology and obsessed with human potential. Learning to Be is what attracted Aaron to Acton Academy. People just need a little inspiration, a positive and supportive voice in their head, because when people get out of their own way, they can change the world.

Aaron believes we have an incredible opportunity to empower young people to be the leaders, micro-entrepreneurs, artists, and creators of tomorrow's economy. It's our responsibility as parents and leaders in our communities to make this happen.

Aaron holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Minor in Computer Information Systems from Dakota State University.

Miranda Scholes
Spark Studio Guide

Miranda has a passion for children! She finds great joy in observing children explore, experiment, and discover what motivates and interests them. She has found that when children are internally motivated and empowered they will thrive!

Miranda owned and operated an in-home childcare for over 10 years and then went back to school and earned an Associate Degree from Southeast Technical College as an Early Childhood Specialist.

Chantel Yearling
Elementary Studio Guide

Chantel believes that "Children are curious, smart and motivated to grow themselves. As adults, we need to help children understand real-life situations." She is the first Guide at Acton Academy Sioux Falls, serving students and families in the Elementary Studio.

With experience and education as a Child Life Specialist, Chantel is committed to supporting the individual learning needs of children in an environment that fosters curiosity, self-discipline, and fun.

Chantel hails from St. James, MN and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a Bachelor of Science in Therapeutic Recreation, Minor in Psychology.

Abby Burnside
Middle School Studio Guide

Abby has a passion for seeing children grow into lifelong learners. She believes that this happens by giving children the space to learn how to learn and to discover and develop their unique gifts and passions. This requires the gift of time and an environment where failure is expected and embraced. In her role as Guide, Abby aims to provide a safe, nurturing learning community where learners can truly discover their gifts in order to change the world.

Abby has been teaching for the past 10 years in both traditional and alternative settings. Her background includes teaching learners at all levels from elementary through high school. She graduated from the University of Sioux Falls with a degree in elementary education, a middle school and English Language Learner (ELL) endorsement, and a Spanish minor.

Jeff Sandefer
Advisor and Acton Academy Co-Founder

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
Advisor and Acton Academy Co-Founder

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."

Our beliefs

  • We believe each child has a gift that can change the world in a profound way.
  • We believe in a closely connected family of lifelong learners.
  • We believe in learning to learn, learning to do, and learning to be.
  • We believe in economic, political, and religious freedom.
"The thought of a learning environment that incorporates active learning, includes all the senses, and emphasizes a pursuit personalized to your individual gifts, sounds amazing. What kid doesn't deserve that?"

Hi, I'm Aaron Johnson. 👋

I'm Co-Founder & Head of School at Acton Academy Sioux Falls

I'd love to hear from you. Fill out the form below and I'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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