Joy grew up in Georgia. After returning home from semesters in Italy and Bolivia, she graduated from Berry College, started a family, and launched a photography business. After five years of photography, Joy became the Creative Director of OnceWed, one of the most influential wedding websites in the world. Seeing the great need for creative professionals to have access to the tools they need for success in business, Joy eventually co-founded If I Made. Presently, Joy is the Creative Director for Pinewood Forest, and oversees design, marketing, and events for the emerging community. Joy’s work has been featured in Vogue, Elle Decor, Better Homes & Gardens, Brides, and other magazines, books, and blogs.
Tyler Thigpen, Co-founder
Tyler also grew up in Georgia and has worked in innovative district, private, and charter schools, as well as statewide and national nonprofits. Currently, Tyler is a Partner at Transcend, a national nonprofit focused on accelerating innovation in the core design of school, and co-founder of MENTOR Georgia, the state of Georgia’s mentoring partnership. Tyler is the former head of the upper school at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta and co-founder and board member of Chattahoochee Hills Charter School near Serenbe. Tyler holds a doctoral degree in Education Leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education, a masters in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a masters in theology from Regent College. Tyler has written about the future of learning in the Washington Post, Education Week, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and others.
Yvette Cook, Founding Board Member
Yvette is a seasoned executive, business strategist, coach and consultant with more than 25 years of leadership experience. She has successfully enhanced the culture of organizations to become more competitive, responsive and innovative. She is most proud of her work with non-profits, specifically those focused on education, to improve the conditions and opportunities for those living in underserved communities. Yvette began her professional career in broadcast media sales, has owned a marketing consulting firm, and is a certified Personal and Executive Coach. Her past positions include: President & CEO of Ushers New Look, Chief Marketing Officer of United Way of Atlanta, and Chief Strategy Officer of Georgia Public Broadcasting. Yvette is currently coaching, consulting, and serving as Chief Operating Officer of Inspire, Inc. She earned a master’s degree in mass communications and a bachelor’s degree in public affairs and political science from the University of Denver. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for SHRM Atlanta, Caring for Others, and the University of Denver, School of Arts and Sciences Alumni.
Caleb Collier, Founding Guide
Caleb grew up in Virginia, but has lived in Georgia long enough to consider it home. He has spent many years as a middle school teacher, but is a storyteller at heart. He got his start in education as a creative writing tutor to sixth graders in the Atlanta Public School system and has since taught in a multi-age, constructivist environment. Before finding his way into the classroom, Caleb served as Media Director and co-founder of Give Us Names, a nonprofit organization working alongside of displaced Colombians to share their stories. Currently, Caleb is pursuing a PhD in Teaching and Learning at Georgia State University with a research focus on Digital Storytelling. Caleb’s greatest passion (and greatest adventure) is his family, and he gladly spends most of his time with his wife and two daughters at their home in Grant Park, Atlanta.
Lisa Chatham, Founding Guide
Lisa grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, but after living in Georgia for over a decade, she couldn't imagine living without these Georgia pines. After extending her time in college to include a semester in Athens, Greece, she graduated from Kennesaw State University with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education. Over the next several years, she taught Preschool, Pre-Kindergarten, and Kindergarten, married her college sweetheart, and grew her family by two dogs and three kids. After settling into Tyrone, GA, Lisa began teaching third grade through a Title I virtual public school platform, reaching diverse learners from all over the state. Most recently, Lisa added a Gifted Teaching certification and was accepted to the graduate program at KSU. Her greatest passion, joy, and challenge is her family, and she gladly spends most of her time with her husband, their two sons and daughter. They enjoy any activity that takes them outside and they frequently camp, hike, explore and travel.
Amber Bryant, Founding Apprentice Guide
Amber was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where she attended Frederick Douglass High School. Upon graduation she attended Georgia Southern University and graduated with a degree in Human and Environmental Sciences. After several years of managing and overseeing the renovation and construction of both residential and commercial properties, Amber changed careers to open a family shipping business and oversaw the first stage of operation. During this time she married NFL Cornerback Fernando Bryant, and began actively participating in his 25-Sports Foundation, which supports the encouragement of inner-city youth. From the love to see children succeed, Amber began to volunteer at Meadowlands Montessori school and decided to pursue her certification in Montessori Middle Grades Education. She has served the Henry and Fayette County communities as a Montessori guide and assistant in both the Upper and Lower Elementary classes. Amber also launched The Odyssey Program at Douglass High School, which focuses on essential life skills for high school students to carry into adulthood and become successful, contributing citizens to their community. She still volunteers with the students from Douglass. Fernando and Amber have been married for 13 years and raise Fernando’s older children, Amber’s nephew, and together have a 7 year old daughter named Griffin.
Louis Allen, Founding PE Guide
Louis’s interest in health and fitness is astonishing when viewed through the eyes of his childhood. Raised by two grandmothers that exhibited love through food, Louis and his brother grew up in an environment that lived on the go, eating fast food along with large portions of unhealthy home-cooked meals. Early on, Louis’s friends nicknamed him “Big Lou” in honor of his big mouth, big appetite, and his big body! Today, the name has evolved into Coach Lou.
Louis graduated from Long Beach State University with a degree in Kinesiology and Physical Education. In 2001, Louis received an opportunity to work at Los Angeles Southwest Junior College as the first Strength and Conditioning Coach for both football and basketball programs. Under his leadership, Louis organized team workouts, designed programs, and designed the first strength and conditioning manual at Los Angeles Southwest Junior College. He also designed strength and conditioning programs for local high school football programs.
With demonstrated leadership in the health and fitness arena, Louis moved on to work as a Physical Education Specialist with Little Company of Mary. In this position, Louis taught elementary and middle school students along with teachers on how to be physically active and enjoy movement through a structured program called Moving Children. This is where Louis received his experience creating exciting fitness programs, conducting training seminars, developing coaches and teachers.
His infectious personality has helped him become one of the most requested fitness professionals amongst children and adults. Currently, Louis is coaching middle/high school kids and small group adult classes at GoPerformance in Peachtree City.
Jeff Sandefer, Advisor
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
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."
Zachary Herrmann, Advisor
Dr. Zachary Herrmann is the Director of the Project-Based Learning Certificate program at the University of Pennsylvania. In this role, he develops and leads professional learning focused on teacher and leader development, innovation, and creative problem solving. Dr. Herrmann taught high school mathematics for several years, during which time he developed a collaborative professional development network of schools dedicated to improving teaching and learning with a focus on complex tasks, collaborative learning, and equity.<
One of the courses he teaches at Penn GSE is “Collaboration & Conflict,” a new course which engages students in a cross-disciplinary exploration of how people work together to solve complex problems. Dr. Herrmann also serves as a lecturer at Penn GSE, where he teaches within the Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, the Education Entrepreneurship program, and the Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program. He also teaches management communication within the core curriculum of the M.B.A. program at Wharton, as well as within the undergraduate program.