Our Team


Matt Curtis, Co-Founder and Head Guide

Matt grew up in Maine, but has lived in numerous locales and loves to explore unfamiliar places.  He is a guide who seeks to excite and empower learners.  Matt has been formally involved in education for more than twenty years in a diverse range of capacities and locations. During this time, Matt has been a successful entrepreneur, founding member of a large-scale, urban education reform initiative, school leader, counselor, teacher and homeschooler (which he strategically structured to obtain another teacher of the year award).  While these experiences have allowed Matt to work with many extraordinary educators and achieve a number of significant goals, they have also convinced Matt that conventional educational systems and processes are failing countless students.

Matt believes that youth are far more capable than most imagine and that the goals of education should be to stoke passion, leverage personal strengths and interests, and foster greatness, rather than control, standardize, and accumulate antiquated Carnegie Units.

Matt holds a PhD in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as advanced degrees in Counseling and Educational Leadership.   More importantly, Matt believes that he has grown since his earliest days as an educator when a student aptly observed on a class evaluation, “Mr. Curtis might know a lot about writing skills, but Mr. Curtis might not really know how to teach writing.”

Matt is married to Shatay Trigere and is the appreciative father of Shunie and Skaya.  Matt is opening the Academy in the hopes of providing Shunie and Skaya, and children like them, a more epic and inspirational learning journey.

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Shatay Trigere, Co-Founder

Shatay has been working with emerging brands over twenty-five years to strengthen their brand voice, operations, creative, and marketing strategies and help their leaders and employees grow from early startup and ideation phase to large multinational organizations. Shatay revels in all types of positive growth, personal, professional, and organizational and continues to focus on her own personal transformation through experience and education. She is excited to be part of the Acton Academy Journey in Thrive Academy, Stamford, CT, and wishes she could have gone to an Acton Academy as a young learner.

Currently, Shatay is the Chief Client Officer at Eyeview Inc. a Performance Video Marketing Company based in NYC. She has led creative, creative technology, account management, and client solutions & development teams at a number of companies. Shatay built the creative personalization and account management functions for Conversant display media, led the alignment of account management and creative across multiple divisions during acquisitions, and oversaw the rebranding effort from Dotomi and ValueClick into Conversant. After starting her career as Art Director at Grey Group AMEA, working on brands such as Snapple and Siemens, she became Creative Director at Glazer & Bar, working on KIA, Haagen Dazs, and Weight Watchers. 

Trigère has also taught branding and interactive media at Ascola Meidad Visual Communication College. She holds a Bachelor in Design, Visual Communications from Bezalel Academy of Art & Design and is a certified Zen Shiatsu Practitioner and Executive Coach. Shatay holds the position of Principal of Scenarios LLC, Trigère’s boutique executive coaching and management consultancy based in Stamford, CT.

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Laura Sandefer: Advisor & Co-Founder of the Acton Academy

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".

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Jeff Sandefer: Advisor & Co-Founder of the Acton Academy

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 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 PhilanthropyRoundtable and National Review magazine and one of the youngest members ever elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.