green element 18.png
green element 17.png
green element 9.png
 
green element 21.png
green element 25.png
Watercolor_0055_55_edited_edited.png
18.png
Watercolor_0055_55_edited.png
9.png
3.png
06 Board.png

Our Team

green element 17.png

"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.

20.png
08 Feather.png
green element 17.png
gold element 18.png
8.png
drapery peach.png
drapery%20peach_edited.png
IMG_9264_edited.jpg

Gina has been a Montessori guide for over 18 years. She received her Montessori certification in 2001 while living in Michigan. She moved to Jacksonville, FL in June 2002 and has worked at A Child’s Place Montessori school for the past 18 years. She is married and has two children. She enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, reading, listening to music, and going to the beach. She joined River Oak to further her love of teaching and to help children thrive in an encouraging environment to reach their full potential. She truly believes there is more to education than academics. She is a big proponent of the Montessori method because of its holistic approach to education. "My strengths as a guide would be that I relate well with children and parents, observe and lead children towards independence. My special interests are art, music, and cultural studies. I believe our children are the peacekeepers and voices of the future."

Gina Golemb

Guide

wreath 4.png
Gina has been a Montessori guide for over 18 years. She received her Montessori certification in 2001 while living in Michigan. She moved to Jacksonville, FL in June 2002 and has worked at A Child’s Place Montessori school for the past 18 years. She is married and has two children. She enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, reading, listening to music, and going to the beach. She joined River Oak to further her love of teaching and to help children thrive in an encouraging environment to reach their full potential. She truly believes there is more to education than academics. She is a big proponent of the Montessori method because of its holistic approach to education. "My strengths as a guide would be that I relate well with children and parents, observe and lead children towards independence. My special interests are art, music, and cultural studies. I believe our children are the peacekeepers and voices of the future."

Dinah is co-founder of Connecting Thru Music and Music Teacher for Conneting 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 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! 

Music Guide

28%20Branch_edited.png
06%20Board_edited.png

Dinah Frilling

Dinah_edited.jpg
wreath 4.png

Victoria is a graduate of Florida International University Honors College where she studied Education and Child Psychology. After working in a traditional school early in her career, she decided to open her own academic coaching business, Learning Made Fun Academy. She has spent the last 20 years "guiding" and mentoring hundreds of students to reach their full potential - both as students and individuals. She truly believes that all children are geniuses and capable of achieving their hearts' desires. She came to River Oak Academy in search of an empowering learning environment for her son, Nicholas, and felt inspired to become a Guide. She is honored to serve as Elementary Guide and wholeheartedly embraces her role as a part of her Hero's Journey. She is passionate about helping the River Oak Academy Family to grow and thrive. She has been married to her best friend, David, for over 23 years and loves spending time with her family, as well as going to the beach, reading, and crafting. Victoria also taught and coached swimming for many years and feels that those experiences helped to hone her ability to inspire and motivate individuals to realize and achieve their goals. She loves to make learning "fun" and supports the Acton philosophy that the purpose of education is to "learn how to learn, learn how to do, and learn how to be." 

Victoria Miller

Guide

IMG_2579_edited_edited.jpg
13%20Flower_edited.png
28%20Branch_edited.png
06%20Board_edited.png
wreath 4.png

Victoria is a graduate of Florida International University Honors College where she studied Education and Child Psychology. After working in a traditional school early in her career, she decided to open her own academic coaching business, Learning Made Fun Academy. She has spent the last 20 years "guiding" and mentoring hundreds of students to reach their full potential - both as students and individuals. She truly believes that all children are geniuses and capable of achieving their hearts' desires. She came to River Oak Academy in search of an empowering learning environment for her son and felt inspired to become a Guide. She is honored to serve as Elementary Guide and wholeheartedly embraces her role as a part of her Hero's Journey. She is passionate about helping the River Oak Academy Family to grow and thrive. She loves spending time with her family, as well as going to the beach, reading, and crafting. Victoria also taught and coached swimming for many years and feels that those experiences helped to hone her ability to inspire and motivate individuals to realize and achieve their goals. She loves to make learning "fun" and supports the Acton philosophy that the purpose of education is to "learn how to learn, learn how to do, and learn how to be." 

bouquet 3.png
Melanie's%20Photos%203_edited.jpg

Melanie has over 12 years of experience in the field of education working with hundreds of teens. Her Hero's Journey has led her down a path where she has worked as a  teacher, an Academic Life Coach for teens, and a yoga and mindfulness instructor for kids as well as adults. Along this journey Melanie learned a lot from the students and parents she worked with, which inspired a passion in holistic education. She believes that a student's social emotional well-being is just as important as their academic progress. Melanie has published several workbooks and created various products to help teens have less stress and achieve more success. When she found River Oak Academy and learned about the Acton philosophy she knew that it would be a great school for her curious, nature-loving son to grow and learn. The opportunity to serve as an MS Guide is an honor and in line with Melanie's passion to help students succeed in school and life. 

Melanie Black

Guide

wreath 4.png
Melanie has over 12 years of experience in the field of education working with hundreds of teens. Her Hero's Journey has led her down a path where she has worked as a  teacher, an Academic Life Coach for teens, and a yoga and mindfulness instructor for kids as well as adults. Along this journey Melanie learned a lot from the students and parents she worked with, which inspired a passion for holistic education. She believes that a student's social-emotional well-being is just as important as their academic progress. Melanie has published several workbooks and created various products to help teens have less stress and achieve more success. When she found River Oak Academy and learned about the Acton philosophy she knew that it would be a great school for her curious, nature-loving son to grow and learn. The opportunity to serve as an MS Guide is an honor and in line with Melanie's passion to help students succeed in school and life. 

FALA  is dedicated to teaching Spanish to all group ages with a unique approach that makes learning another language fun and easy. They believe that exposure to a second language at a young age dramatically improves your child’s chances of becoming bilingual, builds confidence, and acts as a key enabler for their future success. 

Ms. Gladys brings multiple years of senior management experience to the FALA organization after leading a successful language academy and serving in corporate assignments that included COO and CFO positions. "Personally, I love helping children learn foreign languages in a fun way so they can experience the advantages of being bilingual. My personal goal is to make sure that The World is one language away”.

FALA  is dedicated to teaching Spanish to all group ages with a unique approach that makes learning another language fun and easy. They believe that exposure to a second language at a young age dramatically improves your child’s chances of becoming bilingual, builds confidence, and acts as a key enabler for their future success. 

Ms. Gladys brings multiple years of senior management experience to the FALA organization after leading a successful language academy and serving in corporate assignments that included COO and CFO positions. "Personally, I love helping children learn foreign languages in a fun way so they can experience the advantages of being bilingual. My personal goal is to make sure that  

The World is one language away”.

FALA

Spanish Guide

Gladys%20Franco_edited.jpg
13%20Flower_edited.png
28%20Branch_edited.png
06%20Board_edited.png
wreath 4.png

Our Team

13%20Flower_edited.png
Mary is a graduate of Boston University and Lesley University. She currently lives in Northeast Florida. A great believer in creating the change you want to see in the world, she felt a deep calling to create a school that is very much needed but simply didn't exist. A learning community where the joy of learning is palpable and alive. With many years of trial and error, soul-searching, and great love, River Oak Academy was born. She is inspired each day to see each learner take agency over their learning. She remains a lifelong learner. She learns more from each learner on any given day than from anyone else. She believes that the true objective of education is learning, not teaching. 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.
MLS profile.heic

Mary is a graduate of Boston University and Lesley University. She currently lives in Northeast Florida. A great believer in creating the change you want to see in the world, she felt a deep calling to create a school that is very much needed but simply didn't exist. A learning community where the joy of learning is palpable and alive. With many years of trial and error, soul-searching, and great love, River Oak Academy was born. She is inspired each day to see each learner take agency over their learning. She remains a lifelong learner. She learns more from each learner on any given day than from anyone else. She believes that the true objective of education is learning, not teaching. 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.

Mary Shaeffer

Founder/Head of School

wreath%204_edited.png
Mary has lived in Northeast Florida for 17 years. She graduated from Boston University School of Dental Medicine and completed a Post Doctoral Program in Oral Surgery as well as General Dentistry. She enjoyed the artistry but most especially connecting with her patients.  When her son was born, she decided to focus on being a mother. A great believer in creating the change you want in the world, she felt a deep calling after experiencing shortcomings in her son’s education. She came to a crossroads to either find a school of their dreams or to create it. She decided to participate in the Reggio Emilia approach to Education Program at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA where she applied her passion for a tailored, individualized, collaborative approach from healthcare into education. With great love, River Oak Academy was born.
Mary sees River Oak Academy as a home away from home, a place where children will be accepted as they are, a place where they feel safe, heard, and loved. 
Laura%252520S_edited_edited_edited.jpg

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.

Co-Founder of Acton Academy Austin / Advisor

wreath%204_edited.png
Mary has lived in Northeast Florida for 17 years. She graduated from Boston University School of Dental Medicine and completed a Post Doctoral Program in Oral Surgery as well as General Dentistry. She enjoyed the artistry but most especially connecting with her patients.  When her son was born, she decided to focus on being a mother. A great believer in creating the change you want in the world, she felt a deep calling after experiencing shortcomings in her son’s education. She came to a crossroads to either find a school of their dreams or to create it. She decided to participate in the Reggio Emilia approach to Education Program at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA where she applied her passion for a tailored, individualized, collaborative approach from healthcare into education. With great love, River Oak Academy was born.
Mary sees River Oak Academy as a home away from home, a place where children will be accepted as they are, a place where they feel safe, heard, and loved. 
Jeff%2520S_edited_edited.jpg

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

Co-Founder of Acton Academy Austin / Advisor

wreath%204_edited.png
green element 26.png
 
bouquet 3.png
green element 5.png