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A Day in the Life at ROA

A Day in the Life at ROA

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We are a one-room school house
that captures the imagination,
engages the hearts and minds,
inspires the spirit and joy of exploration, discovery, and
adventure in every person in our community.
For the joyful and courageous families.

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Our Team

"Teaching is not about answering questions but about raising questions-

opening doors for them in places that they could not imagine"

-Yawar Baig

We would like to think of ourselves as facilitators, motivators, or guides. 

Learners are encouraged to take more control of their learning process. 

Our role is to embrace each child's unique qualities, equip and support them

with resources to be problem solvers and creative thinkers even through failures, 

empowering and motivating them to find what they want to accomplish in the world.

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Dinah is co-founder of Connecting Thru Music and Music Teacher for Connecting Thru Music (CTM). She graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in 99’ and studied Vocal Performance at Jacksonville University. She is a private voice, piano, and guitar instructor at Orange Park School of Music and a Licensed Kindermusik Educator. Her band, Cain’t Never Could, is partnered with CTM and provides live music and support for their fundraising initiatives. She is the lead song writer for CTM. 

As a music teacher and working musician, her goal is to connect to others through the powerful medium of music. She believes that music is the universal language, the common bond that connects us and soothes our souls. Having seen first hand the success that comes from using music as a tool for learning, she strongly believes in the benefits of music enrichment for children. She welcomes opportunities that allow her to share her love and appreciation for music with others! 


Dinah Frilling


Sherryl was born in the Philippines, raised in South Florida in a multicultural home, her dad from Trinidad and her mom from the Philippines.  Her mixed culture was vital to her love of art, completing various portfolio classes through high school and college, her advanced drawing and painting skills spilled into the digital world. Sherryl was fortunate to attend and graduate from the Digital Animation and Visual Effects School in Orlando and CG Masters Academy in BC, Canada. Was able to do all this with the support of her husband Sean, and her 4 children. Her son had travelled with her during this time which lead them to the world of homeschooling. This opened up Sherryl's eyes to what a child is capable of when given agency over their learning. 

After a decade of large scale projects throughout, she was fortunate to have traveled around the country and world, absorbing different landscapes, her career took a turn into the digital world of Film and Gaming. Sherryl had also founded, and ran for eight year, Hands On STEAM Studio & Gallery; a unique space that offered STEAM (Science Technology Engineering ART Math) activities for all ages, from preschool-adult. She found that the classes engaged diverse and independent creatives to be successful. Throughout the years, it developed experience-driven communities, bringing teams together, encouraging young makers to explore limitless possibilities- empowering minds, launching businesses, transforming neighborhood into a better place to be.

Sherryl had recently received an AMI Montessori Elementary 6-12 Certificate.

Her wish, as she takes on the position as guide, is to bring about inspiration, new vibrancy and increasing engagement using arts across disciplines into our studios-ultimately a love of learning.

Sherryl Morgan


Our Team

Mary was born and raised in the Philippines, of Filipino and Spanish ancestry. Coming from a family with a passion for art, science, and a heart for service, with both sisters going into healthcare; she was naturally lead into pursuing healthcare as a career and completed her Post Doctoral Studies in Boston University. She loved serving her patients and developing a connection with their families but eventually felt that the transactional component in healthcare did not align with her beliefs nor feed her soul. After having 2 children of her own, she made the momentous decision to retire and focus on her family. This allowed her to witness her children's experiences in school which lead her to the greatest crossroads of her life. Seeking what she didn't know existed, yet knowing that being content with the status quo and not taking action was something she was not willing to do; a great believer in creating the change you wish to see in the world, she felt a deep calling to create a school which lead her to Acton Academy. She pursued further training at Lesley University on a Reggio approach to education and AMI Montessori Administration. This transition into more progressive ideas in education had helped her let go of the achievement-based, perfectionistic mindset nurtured by her past experience, with a dream of creating a learning community where the joy of learning is palpable. With many years of trial and error, soul-searching, and great love- River Oak Academy was born. She is inspired each day by all the children at ROA. She remains a lifelong learner, most often learning more from the children than from anyone else. Mary's vision is to see River Oak Academy as a place where children are seen as the best versions of themselves. A place where they feel safe, heard, and loved. 
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Mary Shaeffer, DMD, CAGS


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."

Laura Sandefer, M. Ed.


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.

Jeff Sandefer, MBA


Kathy grew up in Miami. She is a military child of Japanese and Costa Rican descent. She moved to Jacksonville in 2017 to be closer to family. She's a proud mother of an 11 year old son whom she had raised as a Montessori child. She first learned about the Montessori method in her twenties while working part time at an AMI Montessori School, where she became mesmerized with how much a child can learn given the right tools. Witnessing them develop independence with the freedom of choice.

Kathy holds a Bachelor's Degree in Law and Forensic Science from Florida International University. Her intention was to enter the police academy but longed for something that nurtured her tender heart and spirit. She decided to change the course of her life and instead pursued training in a Montessori program at Loyola University.  She has taught in a Toddler classroom for 7 years, a Primary classroom for 7 years, and in Lower Elementary for 9 years.

She is looking forward to her new adventure as a guide at River Oak Academy where she can instill her love of the Montessori philosophy with our families.

During her spare time, she likes to attend Crossfit classes, bake, go on family mini vacations visiting historical places, and living a healthy lifestyle.

“When a child is given a little leeway, he will at once shout, ‘I want to do it!’ But in our schools, which have an environment adapted to children’s needs, they say, ‘Help me to do it alone.’”

-The Secret of Childhood

Kathy Aguilar

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