Director and Children's House guide
Natalie was born and raised in Odessa, TX. After spending her adolescence and early adulthood elsewhere in various parts of Texas, she returned to the Permian Basin with her husband in 2012. Natalie has been involved with Montessori education since 2004. Natalie knew that there was something very special about this way of educating after her first internship at Belden St. Montessori School in Sherman, TX. After graduating from Austin College with a B.A. in History, she moved to Austin to continue her immersion in Montessori education. She spent 8 years at Austin Montessori School, working in the roles of guide, assistant, and campus coordinator. Her experience there allowed her to see the impact of the Montessori philosophy on children and their families from infancy through adolescence.
Natalie completed her AMI Primary Training in 2007 under the direction of Joen Bettmann in Atlanta, GA. She went on to complete her Master of Education at Loyola University in 2009. Natalie serves both as the Director of Yucca Learning and as the Middle School guide. She loves the opportunity to share the greater vision of Montessori with the parent community, but her greatest joy is in watching the unfolding of a child’s wonder.
Natalie and her family love living in Midland. You might spy them at the duck pond, scouting out the Midland Downtown Farmers’ Market, or enjoying a new artist’s work at the Museum of the Southwest.
Youngest Children's guide
Deidra holds her Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education. She has helped to train staff, develop and implement curriculum, and facilitate parent education at early childcare centers from New Mexico to Buffalo. She went on to help them become National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredited. She has spent over 20 years working with infants, toddlers, and their parents.
It was love at first sight when Deidra first encountered Montessori philosophy. Though she could not take a formal training right away, she began incorporating as much of the Montessori philosophy into her life as possible. Deidra completed her AMI Assistants to Infancy training in 2017 under the direction of Sara Brady at the Montessori Institute of North Texas.
She and her husband became foster parents in Buffalo and adopted their son, who is now 14. After his adoption was final they returned to Texas to be closer to family. Since moving to Midland, Deidra had twin girls and one more daughter. Their family of 6 loves Midland, and plans to call it home forever. You can find them swimming in the pool, riding bikes at the park, or welcoming the whole neighborhood over for backyard fun and delicious food.
Natalie and Deidra founded Yucca Studios: An Acton Academy as an Acton Academy affiliate in 2019 in order to meet the need for thoughtful education from childhood through adolescence in Midland.
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.
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 promises to your child
- 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.
- 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, religious, and political freedom.